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The following record of my experiences during the Great War, 
(1914-1918) were taken from extracts of letters written by 
me to my Parents during my army service. It is entirely due 

to the interest and patience of my Mother, who carefully 
copied these extracts into a book as she received them, that 

the diary was retained. It would have been impossible to 
have written this account entirely from memory and to her I 

tender my loving gratitude. 

The negatives of the photographs were periodically sent to 
my home from abroad but owing to enemy submarine activity, 
some were submerged before arriving at their destination, in 
consequence, a number of the photographs affixed herein are 

discoloured and stained. 

This book must only be regarded as a record of events, for I 
have made not the slightest effort to ape literary ability. 

I venture to hope that, in years to come, my Son may derive 
a certain amount of interest from its contents which portray 
the varied experiences of his Father, and which were written 

up solely for his pleasure. 


(The following text was written during the 1920' s. At this time the over use of comma's and 
apostrophe' s was common practice thus you may find some of the book includes large 
paragraphs of text with little or no full stops) . 


This book was originally written by 
James Racine 

Edited, restored and converted to digital format by 

Nik Racine 


The author - James Racine - in his highlanders uniform 


Enlistment in the 5 th Battalion of The Seaforth Highlanders 

51 st Highland Division & Training at Bedford. 


AUGUST 1914. 

I was spending my annual leave under canvas with the 
Guildford Congregational Y.M.C.A. and was sitting in my 
tent, when the news reached the camp that Great Britain had 
declared war upon Germany and her Allies. As I was a member 
of the St John Ambulance Brigade, the next day I returned to 
my office in Guildford and awaited further developments, for 
it was possible that my services would be required. 

Whilst I sat in my office, I heard cheers and shouts and, 
looking outside, I saw many young fellows proceeding to the 
recruiting office to enlist in the army. They were full of 
enthusiasm and excitement and loudly singing and laughing. 

That evening, I reported at the Police Station and was 
enrolled as a Special Constable, being informed that my 
duty would be to guard a certain railway bridge, at night, 
against the possibility of its being blown up by enemy 
spies . 

I attended the office during the days and, throughout the 
nights, my friends and I took turns at sentry duty at the 
bridge. During the nights, train loads of troops and 
transports passed through en route for foreign parts and 
we all felt very thrilled. 

My friend, Ernest Gyatt, and I had discussed offering 
our services to the Army and we decided to 
go to London the next day and enlist in a regiment. On 
Saturday, 12th September 1914, we arrived in London, 
strolled up Victoria Street, and found ourselves Buckingham 
Gate, outside the London Scottish Head Mere; we were 
informed that a certain number were required to complete the 
strength of the 5th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. 
After a short conversation, my friend and I decided to offer 
ourselves for service. 

We were shown into the presence of the Medical Officer and, 
after taking off our clothes, were subjected to a medical 
examination and duly pronounced to be fit. Following the 
signing of the usual attestation forms and taking the oath, 
we were instructed to report again on Monday, in readiness 
to proceed to the battalion for training. 


After spending the weekend at Guildford, we again presented 
ourselves at Buckingham Gate and, with other recruits (amid 
the cheers of the civilians) , were marched to St Pancras 
Station, headed by the bagpipes; we entrained for Bedford 
where the Highland Division was undergoing intensive 
training in preparation for service overseas. 

I left the London Scottish Headquarters, Buckingham Gate, to entrain for Bedford. 

(I am marked by the arrow) . 

We reached our destination at about 5 p.m. and were marched 
to a field. Here we were divided into parties and, after a 
long halt, were billeted in various houses; in my billet I 
was accommodated in a nice bedroom. After being thus 
quartered, we returned to the field for tea, which consisted 
of bread, jam, and tea. 

We thought that we were roughing it, after the comfortable 
home life of the past, but the recruits were good fellows 
and we were a merry crowd who entered into the spirit of 
things. The address of my billet was 190, Forest Hill Road, 
Bedford . 


After a good nights sleep, we were awakened a 6 a.m, by the 
strains of the pipes and drums; tea was served in the field 
at 7 a.m. and drill took place until breakfast time. At 9 
a.m. drill was continued until 1 p.m (dinner time), then 
resumed until 4 p.m. 

I will describe the food we received. We were allowed no 
milk or butter and at breakfast, the tea was unsugared; it 
had a smokey flavour by reason of its preparation over a 
camp fire. The menu for the day was as follows - 

Breakfast - Tea (so called) , 

A redeeming feature was an ample supply even for the 
hungriest . 

My sergeant was quite a good fellow, as friendly as he dared 
be, and quite willing to help us to the best of his ability. 

We were without uniforms and looked strange when drilling in 
our civilian clothes; some men wore bowler hats and others 
caps and soft hats. 

We constantly made mistakes in drill because the non- 
commissioned officers spoke such broad Scotch 
that we had difficulty in understanding their commands. 

Many of the fellows were billeted in empty houses, which had 
not been occupied for years, and we commenced to rough it in 
preparation for sterner conditions. 

A number of the Scottish troops had not volunteered for 
overseas service and, in consequence, their kilts had 
been taken from them and given to us and they were forced to 
wear tartan trousers; these troops were then sent back to 
the depot in Scotland. 

The lady, with whom we were billeted, was very kind and 
offered to us the use of her drawing room which possessed 
quite a good piano. The fellows with whom I was quartered 
were of an educated class and we had good times together. 



- thick bread, fairly stale, and jam. 

- sometimes a rasher appeared by mistake. 

- Stew (well disguised) 

- Bread and jam and tea. 

- That left over from tea. 


There were no sheets to the beds so, what with sleeping 
between blankets and the wearing of army shirts, we had a 
"ticklish" time'. 

A large tent had been provided by the United Free Church of 
Scotland Mission, for the Use of the Seaforths, where 
writing materials were free and refreshments dispensed at 
reasonable prices. A platform had been erected and music and 
concerts were a nightly amusement act. 

The usual programme of army training was carried out daily, 
thus, physical training before breakfast with running, 
hopping, etc., drill in the morning until dinner time and 
resumed in the afternoon; the evenings were usually free for 
the men to do as they pleased. 

I was selected to play a football match "Recruits v. 
Efficients" of B. Company and, as was expected , it was a 
rough game but we managed to win. 

It was amusing to see the Scotch fellows playing leapfrog in 
their kilts. They were a very hardy lot, a number of them 
having served in the Boer War. They did not appear to be 
very athletic but were very wirey. I think we could have 
beaten them at jumping etc., as they did not seem to be very 
active . 

We had our meals standing, for the grass was too wet to sit 
upon. Then the bacon (if any) for breakfast was brought to 
us by an orderly, a struggle generally ensued and those not 
successful in the scramble had to go without. This little 
tussle took place when the bread was also issued. 

One day another 150 recruits arrived and the battalion was 
brought to its full strength. 

At the end of the first part week, we were paid 

the handsome sum of five shillings, which amount was 

soon spent on little extras such as food, cigarettes, etc. 

In Bedford there was a small but compact little theatre, 
where pictures and music hall turns were provided, so my 
friend and I occasionally paid our sixpences and indulged in 
relaxation . 


The battalion band consisted of about a dozen pipers with 
bagpipes, and drummers who, on the march, rendered 
considerable help to the men when they were tired, by 
playing lively Scotch airs and thus cheering them up and 
reviving their drooping spirits. 

Bedford was the centre for the Scottish troops, which 
numbered some 25,000 men. These comprised infantry, 
artillery, Army Service Corps, Royal Engineers, Army Medical 
Corps, etc. so the town was crowded with troops 

I duly joined my company as a trained man, having 
successfully completed my training as a recruit. 

On Sundays we attended Church Parade, in a field, but I am 
afraid that many of the men indulged in sleep instead of 
enjoying (') the service. These services were usually 
conducted in such a manner that only those in the front 
could hear. 

In the evenings, a roll call was held at 9.30 p.m. and 
names had to be answered. 

When I became attached to the company, as a more or less 
efficient unit, I found the drills and duties more 
interesting . 

One morning, the Major informed us that he had prepared a 
scheme which would last for five weeks . We were to 
ommence training in a small way, progress gradually, and 
terminate with a three days route march. Nights would be 
spent out and the whole idea carried through as though 
governed by service conditions. 

We started with drill, advancing and retiring in 
skirmishing order, using independent and rapid fire. The 
Major explained to us the why and wherefore of the 
operations and stated that he did not wish us to become 
mere machines but to understand the reason for the orders. 

We had been lectured regarding innoculation against 
various diseases, by an injection made in the left arm 
and later in the left leg, to resist enteric and typhoid 
fever. My friend and I refused to be so treated as I 
then had no faith in the operation. The open air life 
suited me admirably and I never felt better in health 
or spirits. 


Bedford was quite a nice town and the inhabitants most 
hospitable. A large building had been utilized 
as a place of recreation for the troops, and 
refreshments at popular prices were served by lady 
volunteers . 

In the evenings, the river was lit by coloured electric 
lamps which were festooned along its banks, and a 
military band played; many people made this spot a 
rendezvous . 

We became engaged upon the next phase of our training, 
in learning outpost work, which consisted putting out 
scouts, placing sentries over arms, pickets, etc; it 
was more interesting than the usual drill. We were 
marched over ploughed fields and had to throw 
ourselves down and take cover, and twice a week, night 
operations were carried out, which consisted of 
outpost duty etc; no smoking or talking was permitted. 

The Major again unfolded to us his "great scheme" (as he 
termed it) , of nine weeks; previously he had referred 
to it as a five weeks scheme. It was the topic of 
conversation amongst the men and suggested as an excuse 
for all our troubles. For instance, if we had some 
unpleasant task to carry out or possibly an extra hard 
spell of drill, the remark carried along the line in a 
whisper, was "grand scheme this, mon"; or, if the men 
were more impatient, "hell of a scheme this". If the 
food was not up to scratch, someone would remark - "all 
a part of the scheme" . 

The Scotch boys, I could see, were good fighters, 
although full of nonsense, but their slow obedience to 
orders aggravated the sergeants. On one occasion, an 
order to "form fours" was given by a sergeant but a 
man, who was fooling, did not hear the command, 
whereupon the indignant sergeant immediately said, in 
broad Scotch, "Fur Gawd's sake, mon, move". Naturally 
the rest of the company were amused. 

One fault seemed to point to the fact that the non 
commissioned officers had been (in private life) 
friends of the men and, in consequence, the maintenance 
of discipline was rather difficult; the following was 
an instance. 


The Scene. A field with men halted after a double march. 
Private. "But it's warm, gie us a lee doon, Baub" 
Sergeant. "Ye want a lee doon, au richt". 
(Enter the major) 

Sergeant. "Oop, chaps, yon' s th' major". 
Drill resumed. 

October . 

We progressed with our training, skirmished across ploughed 
fields, route marched, etc. We had not yet received our 
uniforms although we had constantly worried for them. 

Our lieutenant was a very nice fellow who had been with the 
battalion for seventeen years and had risen from the ranks; 
he talked and smoked with the men and was most popular. The 
senior officers and the battalion sergeant-major were very 
different (being from the Regular army) and were officious; 
they regarded us as only amateur soldiers. 

We had practices in trench digging and each man had to 
excavate, with pick and shovel, a piece of ground 3ft x 3ft 
x 6ft; we suffered from well blistered hands. On certain 
days we had fifteen mile route marches. 

There were only seven more weeks in which to complete the 
scheme, then we were to be taken over by the War Office as 
efficient. Army shoes were provided, which were hard and 
needed breaking in, they were very heavy after the light 
civilian shoes we had so far worn. Uniforms were gradually 
issued and new rifles; we expected something definite would 
soon materialize. The training now included sham fights and 
the use of blank ammunition. 

During some nights, we were marched for a distance of some 
five or more miles and, in the dark, ordered to dig 
trenches; no smoking or talking was allowed and the work was 
carried out as quietly as possible. 

The were periodic "Brigade days"; the following was an 
example. The scheme was an imaginary attack on Bedford, with 
cavalry and artillery marching upon us from London, our 
Brigade had to repulse them. 


One constantly heard the remark, from one or another of the 
men (especially on a very long route march or during an 
extra duty) - "A terrible war this, Mon", or a similar 
expression but in stronger language. 

I duly received my kilt and tunic and only awaited the 
Glengarry and sporran; now I was nearly a fully dressed 
Highlander . 

One day I attended a military funeral; the Gaelic wail of 
the pipes sounded very weird. 

We were inspected by the King. The whole division which 
included Seaforths, Gordons, Camerons, Black Watch, Argylls, 
etc. numbering some 30,000 men, paraded and marched past 
with bayonets fixed. It poured with rain and we were all 
soaked to the skin. 

On certain days we were marched to the rifle range which had 
been erected about four miles from Bedford and at times, 
were kept standing about in the pouring rain for the best 
part of an hour and then marched back again without firing a 
shot; this was a typical example of the sense of humour of 
our Divisional Commander. 

I took part in a concert which was held in the Guild tent 
one evening and conclude that more efforts were more or less 
approved as I did not have to dodge any missiles! 

We were ordered to parade at 11am to proceed to the rifle 
range. At 9am the alarm sounded and we threw our things into 
kit bags and paraded in full marching order; we were served 
with 120 rounds of ball ammunition per man. 

After a preliminary parade for inspection, we stood from 
9.45am until 5pm awaiting the arrival of the General. This 
caused no small amount of comment from the men, for it was a 
long time to be without food; however, this was another 
example of the way things were conducted. I presumed that we 
would soon receive orders to move, for during this alarm all 
the transports had been loaded and officers baggage placed 
on trolleys at the station. It was a false alarm, 
nevertheless, and we were dismissed to billets but we were 
prepared to move at a moments warning. The last battalion to 
leave Bedford only received two hours notice. 


The General and Staff Officers. 

Major General R. Bannatine-Allason, C.B. Commanding the Highland Division (second figure 
from the left) with General Sir Ian Hamilton, G.C.B, D.S.O (on the extreme left) and Staff 
Officers at the inspection on Goldington Green, February 2 nd , 1915. 

November . 

There were still no orders to entrain. As the weather had 
turned cold, church parades were no longer held in the field 
but we were marched to church; the parade ground was covered 
in liquid mud and we were forced to take our meals standing. 

The companies were billeted in separate streets for sleeping 
purposes and the orderlies obtained dixies of tea and food 
from the parade ground after the cooks had done their worst. 
Each man, with his share, then sat on the pavement, his back 
to the railings, with legs plate between them. It was 
amusing to see a long line of men feeding in this manner; 
some mornings others were served on the pavement . 


A large rifle range had now been constructed, which 
possessed thirty-two targets, so one half of a battalion was 
able to carry out firing practice; each company 
was allotted eight targets and, in consequence, tests were 
concluded more rapidly. Three thousand recruits proceeded 
to Ipswich to assist in digging some twenty-five miles of 
trenches; these were constructed at a place about eight 
miles from Ipswich. The fellows were welcome to the duty 
for not having yet sampled this form of training they, in 
their ignorance, departed with enthusiasm. 

I took it easy one Sunday afternoon; we had orders to 
remain in billets in the evening whilst a number of the 
company were on picket duty, for we had to stand by case 
called upon for assistance. 

When handing in my pass at the guardroom one night, I saw a 
struggle take place; six of the guard were struggling to 
get handcuffs on a man who had struck a sergeant. This man 
was quite an athlete, so it took some time to overpower 
him; he was a pretty hard case, having been drummed out of 
the Regular Army at an earlier date. He must have spent an 
unpleasant night with his hands handcuffed behind his back. 

My billet was changed to 102, Hartington Street, and I 
shared a room with my friend Gyatt . The landlady, Mrs 
Stuart, was kindness itself and did everything possible for 
our comfort; her husband was a tailor and we kept him busy 
sewing on buttons and pressing our trousers (which we 
donned, on certain occasions, instead of the kilt) . 

My rations were now collected from the company orderly room 
each day and handed to the landlady to prepare and cook. 

We were allowed, per day, one pound of meat, half a loaf of 
bread, an ounce of tea, two ounces of sugar, a small piece 
of butter, and three small potatoes. The landlady had three 
young daughters and many musical evenings with these good 
folks proved of great enjoyment to us. 

Again my friend and I were requested, by the Medical 
Officer, to undergo inoculation but, notwithstanding very 
uncomplimentary remarks of the Adjutant who was also 
present, we refused; we were supported in this by ten others 
of the company. 


I spent a weekends leave at my home with my parents 
and had a splendid time, with a nice bed to sleep in 
and plenty of good food. On my return journey, 
I travelled to Waterloo without my friend Gyatt (also 
on leave); he missed the train. I walked from Waterloo 
to St Pancras and London was in complete darkness, as 
a precaution against the possibility of an enemy 
attack from the air. Just as the train started from 
St Pancras, my friend dashed on to the platform. 

All tickets had been collected and the carriage doors 
locked, as the train was a "non-stop" to Bedford. My 
friend sprinted madly along the platform and just 
managed to get his foot on the step and dive through 
the carriage window into our arms. We duly reached 
our destination and were informed, at the guardroom, 
that all those on leave had been recalled. Several 
men had left for Scotland and telegrams would await 
them on arrival instructing them to return at once; 
this was tough luck, for the rail fare to the north 
of Scotland, when no free voucher was issued, cost 
each man about three pounds . 

After an inspection by the Colonel one morning, we 
started on a three days manoeuvre. We marched some 
twelve miles and finished up at a small village named 
Riseley, where we spent the night. We were quartered 
in a red bricked barn full of chaff which made quite 
comfortable beds for sleeping, although it got into 
our socks and pricked like needles. There were thirty 
or so of us sleeping in it and each man was issued 
with a blanket. Needless to say, the noise the fellows 
made prevented us from getting much sleep and many 
were walking about half the night, endeavouring to get 
warm . 

Before we turned in, we thought we would walk into the 
village and get some tea, for our cooks had missed the way 
and gone to another village so that there was no prospect of 
anything being provided by them. My friend and I called at 
the private residence of a baker, by the name of Valentine, 
and were welcomed most heartily by the occupants; we were 
shown into a room in which a fine log fire was burning and a 
splendid tea was placed before us. 


We stayed for an hour or so and finally left, with many hand 
shakes and wishes of good luck; we returned to the barn and 
slept until roused early the next morning. 

After breakfast, the transport was packed and we moved 
off to another village across country. It was only a few 
miles away and we skirmished the distance, for we were 
supposed to be attacking a stronghold; we arrived at 
midday and had dinner in a field. 

We halted close to a farm named Eastfield Farm and I 
amused myself by inspecting the various animals. After 
tea, we were engaged in a night attack and I spent the 
night in a stable, with eight others, and slept on a 
stone floor which we covered with straw obtained from a 
neighbouring rick but the men in the loft above would not 
let us sleep. 

There was a trapdoor (or a piece of loose board) which 
they soon discovered and showered bran upon us below. The 
men on the ground floor hurled very uncomplimentary 
remarks, in true army language, at those responsible but, 
after a short while, straw and oil cakes rained down and 
waterbottles emptied over us. We thought this to be 
sufficient and a firey old Scotch corporal blew out the 
light, (a candle stuck in the neck of a bottle) , took 
down his rifle and fixed the bayonet. 

Next time the flap was raised, he thrust the bayonet 
through and, as the ceiling was low, a good length of 
steel must have penetrated into the loft above. It was a 
mystery to me that no man was hurt and this serves as an 
illustration of the recklessness of some of the men. We 
were not troubled further, for we found a workman who 
nailed down the flap. 

The next morning, we commenced our march back to 
Bedford, a distance of some fifteen miles. When we 
passed through the village of Riseley again, we were 
given a cheer by the inhabitants who stood at their 
gates with plates of cakes. We arrived back at 
billets and the three days campaign was ended. We 
received, one evening, orders to pack our kitbags in 
readiness for immediate departure if, in the middle 
of the night, the alarm was sounded; whispers of 
entraining for Lowestoft were in the air. However, no 
alarm went and we slept in our beds as usual. 


There was evidently something m the wind, for all leave was 
stopped and no passes were granted to even go into the 
town, I believe the excitement was due to the recent naval 
battles that had taken place and to the possibility of our 
being sent to the East coast to resist invasion; we had to 
stand by in our billets in case of the alarm being sounded. 

The inoculation question was once more raised and the usual 
questions and answers forthcoming the Medical officer. 

Medical officer. 

"Have you been done?" 

Answer . 

"No, Sir." 

Medical officer. 

"Are you for foreign service?". 

Answer . 

"Yes, Sir". 

Medical officer. 

"Why haven't you been done?. 

Answer . 

"I object, Sir". 
Medical officer. 

"Then stay at home, you can't go abroad". 
Answer . 

"Very good, Sir; if you wont take me as I am, I'll stay at 
home " 

Result - discomfiture of the M.o. 

It seemed to be a case of wearing us down and I expected 
that we would give in later, for the sake of a quieter 

December . 

The training continued with the usual parades, skirmishes, 
etc; we were getting tired of the false alarms and of the 
many rumours which were constantly circulated. We were 

kept busy digging trenches and carrying out rifle firing 
practices on the range. 

An epidemic of measles broke out amongst the troops and the 
first victim belonging to my company, as taken to hospital 
in a Red Cross wagon one afternoon. 


Once again the alarm was sounded early one morning and we 
rushed to parade with kits packed and were served with ball, 
ammunition and iron rations. After standing about for some 
long time, the ammunition etc. was collected and we were 
dismissed to billets; we were all heartily sick of the many 
false alarms and beginning to disbelieve the call of the 
bugle . 

Another Divisional Day as ordered and the Seaforths, 
Gordons, Black Watch, Argylls, etc, took part in a mock 
battle. Whilst passing one of the empty houses in which 
some of the Argylls were billeted, I saw the following 
wording displayed upon the gatepost "Better meddle wi' th' 
diel, than th ' bairns o' Fa' kirk' 

I experienced a harder time as the training progressed and 
my turn for guard came along. With five others I had to 
parade in full marching order commanded by a sergeant. We 
mounted guard over ammunition stores, prisoners, etc. each 
doing, in turn, two hours sentry duty with four hours rest; 
this duty lasted from. 9 am until 1.30 p.m. the next day. 

On the 10th December 1914 (My birthday), the 7th Battalion 
of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders left for France 
and I presumed that it would not be long before we 
followed them. 

We had, what was called, a discipline week; punishments 
were handed out for even the most trivial offences and 
all equipment had to be spotless. We were again informed 
that no Christmas leave would be granted and the men 
expressed their disappointment in the usual army 
language ' . 

Christmas Day. 

In the morning we were paraded and drilled and in the 
afternoon, taken for a route march. Many of the men had 
celebrated the festive occasion and, in consequence, the 
column presented a concertina-like appearance, for the men 
swayed on their legs. I imagined that the reason for the 
march was to keep the men out of the public houses. There 
was much singing and all were in good spirits (in more ways 
than one) . 


The landlady of my billet had cooked a splendid 
Christmas spread for us and the landlord provided wine 
and cigars. We had a jolly time, playing games and 
singing songs round the piano. On Boxing Day, it poured 
with rain and we were excused all parades.* 

Each day the training continued and increased in its 
severity . 

On New Year's Eve a concert and dance was held in one 

of the local halls. Two of the pipers were present 

and I was a spectator of the sword dances and quadrilles. 

A Scotchman as accused, by another, of being an Englishman. 
This was taken as an insult and a knife was at once drawn 
from a hosetop; the attacker was seized and order restored. 
It is interesting to note, however, that the impulsive knife 
drawer attempted to attack another man the following day but 
he received a straight blow in the face which put him out of 
action for the time being; he exercised greater caution in 
the future. 

After roll call, my friend and I strolled into Bedford 
to see out the Old Year. About 100 of my company were 
similarly engaged and we paraded the main street 
singing songs. My friend and I had a fellow on our 
shoulders, whilst some of the men had toy bagpipes and 
drums and formed themselves into a band. We proceeded 
along the main street in a long line, arm in arm and, 
when meeting a similar body going in the opposite 
direction, a charge took place and, after a break 
through had been accomplished, the march was resumed; 
midnight was the signal for a general joining of hands 
and the singing of Auld Lang Sync. 

My friend and I returned to the billet at about 1 a.m., 
leaving the rest to carry on until daylight. Most of 
the men had indulged freely in drink and we carried one 
man back to his billet and dropped him on the kitchen 
floor; free fights were quite the order of the day. 

The following evening the troops were entertained to a 
dinner and concert in all the available halls in the 
town; two of the pipers preceeded my party when we 
marched away. A gentleman in Scotland had sent a 
cheque for six hundred pounds, towards the expenses 
and we had a splendid time. 


Once again the toy bagpipes and drums were in 
evidence. It poured with rain but spirits were not 
dampened . 

One evening, I had my first experience of police picket, 
which party consisted of a sergeant and six men; trouble was 
expected on account of the date being near to that of New 
Year's Eve. Our duties consisted of maintaining order in the 
town and arresting any men who were drank and disorderly, or 
who , where apparent, were in the town without permission. 

We had one particularly difficult man to deal with, for he 
reeled along the High Street and sang at the top of his 
voice. Twice he was advised to return to his billet but the 
third time, he swung round and hit one of the picket in the 
face. We carried him kicking and swearing through the main 
street, accompanied by the usual interested band of 
spectators; into the presence of the Police Inspector at the 
civil police station. Here he was released and dropped on 
the ground but immediately got up and struck the Inspector 
in the eye. He was thrown to the ground, searched, and 
finally deposited in a cell after his boots had been 
forcibly removed; we left him singing, swearing, and making 
as much disturbance as he possibly could. 

There were now many cases of measles of which quite a number 
were fatal; military funerals were daily occurrences. There 
were seventeen bodies in the mortuary during one week. One 
patient was kept waiting an hour, on a stretcher, in the 
cold and died; another example of army treatment. 

On a certain Sunday, seventeen London men broke bounds and 
went to London. In uniform, they would not have passed the 
military police at the station and so they carried their 
uniforms in suit cases and donned them during the journey. 

Information reached the ear of the sergeant-major and, on 
their return, an escort awaited them and they were lodged in 
the guardroom under arrest. They were paraded before the 
Commanding Officer the next morning and duly punished. The 
Adjutant refused all leave in consequence of this business, 
which was most unfair to tHe remainder. On Monday, the 
Sergeant-major, with a special picket, caught another forty 
two who had absented themselves without permission. 


Recently we had been engaged in severe field operations 
under the direction of General Sir Bruce Hamilton; he 
informed us that we would shortly proceed overseas. Later we 
were marched to the station and there, practiced entraining 
and, at the conclusion of these operations, were inspected 
by the Brigadier. We called him "Sporran-face" by reason of 
the artificial white beard he was reputed to have worn, his 
jaw having been shot away during the Boer War. 

After taking part in another big field day, Sir Ian Hamilton 
inspected us and took the salute as we marched past . 

The Camerons were under orders to leave on the 7th of the 
following month but nothing was said about the entraining of 
our battalion. 

February . 

Again we were marched to the rifle range and as the water 
was four feet deep in the butts, we had orders to remove our 
boots and socks and dig out the mud and enlarge the ditches 
so that the water would run away; this was a cold 
occupation . 

At last my friend and I were inoculated. The figures (if 
correct) issued by the War Office, appeared to substantiate 
the statement made that such treatment 'was a preventative 
against fever' . I am afraid that the prospect of the two days 
sick leave, with the consequent absence from parades, 
materially helped us to consent to this 'operation' 

We expected to go abroad within a month; all leave was 
hurried through. Several of Kitchener's New Army officers 
appeared one morning, for drill practice. They took it in 
turn to drill the company and, to us, the result was very 
humourous . 

Recently our Lieutenant was promoted to the rank of Captain 
and, one day, we marched to a field for drill exercises; all 
ranks were tired of the false alarms and daily routine and 
impatient to receive orders to move. Our Captain was equally 
fed up and told us to lie down in the shade of the trees and 
keep lout of sight, but be ready to jump up and resume drill 
at a given signal, should the Adjutant put in an appearance. 


He strolled to a corner of the ground which commanded the 
approach to the field and, seeing a lady sitting on the 
gate, engaged her in conversation. After a little while, the 
lady said, "What are you supposed to be doing?". 

He replied, "We are all fed up and instead of doing drill. I 
have told the men to lie down and keep out of sight; 
I am keeping a look out for the Adjutant, who is a blighter 
and would raise the very devil if he caught us". He 
continued, "I know you by sight but can't remember where I 
have met you". "Oh", replied the lady; "I am the Adjutant's 
wife but", she added, "Don't worry, I'm a sport". Needless 
to add, the Captain nearly swooned. 

March . 

I was granted four days leave at home. I had a splendid time 
and thoroughly enjoyed the good food, comfortable bed, and 
rest. A fellow I journeyed back with, said that he had made 
so many final farewells with his friends that he almost felt 
afraid to go home because people presumed that he was on his 
way to France ; the repeated false alarms were proving 
embarassing to us all. 

I lost a friend during one week. I parted from him in the 
evening, as usual, but he failed to put in an appearance 
at the early morning parade the following morning. He was 
found to be dead in bed and no cause was attributed as his 
name had never even figured on the sick list. He was a 
very nice quiet fellow and had enlisted at the same time 
as I had; his body was taken to London. 

The Company was drawn up for inspection by the Medical 
officer; he simply walked between the ranks. What a 
farce . 

I again changed my religion; when I first enlisted I 
attended the Church of England service, later Presbyterian, 
and finally I became a Wesleyan. 

There were only half a dozen of us and on account of the 
small number, we were allowed to proceed unattended to the 
morning service and to sit amongst the civilian congregation 
at the church. It was a change to get away from the 
everlasting army atmosphere. 


Bayonet fighting was a daily occupation and together with 
Swedish drill, we were put through it severely. A squad was 
formed into a ring, facing inwards, with the men about two 
paces apart with their hands behind their backs. A man was 
detailea to run round on the outside with a strap in his 
hand, which he dropped into the hands of one of the men in 
the ring who, in turn, immediately gave chase and 
endeavoured to catch the other man before he could complete 
the circle , and occupy the vacated place. 

If he was successful in catching the running man, he hit 
him with the strap; the prospect of such punishment 
naturally provided an incentive for fleetness of foot. 
We spent periodical nights in trenches and resisted 
mock attacks at daybreak. The weather was bad 
and the tactics were not much appreciated by the men, 
who did not relish having to stand in trenches 
throughout the night in pouring rain. Some of these 
stretches of duty lasted for seventy-two hours and 
resulted in the weeding out of those men who were not In 
first class condition. The sick parade was much larger than 
hitherto . 

Information was received that the whole Highland Division 
was to proceed abroad in the course of a week. 

Transports were sold by auction and new ones supplied; 
all kit was subjected to careful inspection and we 
were issued with waterproof covers for our glengarries. 
The battalion stood by one night, orders to proceed 
to the east Coast having been anticipated. Daily we 
heard rumours that we were to move but no definite order 
was given. All surplus kit was handed into store and 
we were ready to leave at a moments notice. 

My Brigade, which consisted of the 5th & 6th seaforth 
and two battalions of the Argyll Sutherlands, were to 
be the first to leave. 

To complete the strength of the Division, (weakened by 
reason of a battalion of each the Camerons, Gordons, 
Seaforths and Argylls having already proceeded to France) , 
there were battalions of Lancashire and Liverpool Irish 
troops attached. We were called the "International 
Division", being composed of English, Scotch and Irish 
Battalions . 


At last the advance party left and we were to depart for 
a destination unknown, all was excitement. We received 
orders to parade in frill marching order next 
morning and marched to the station to entrain. 

A wonderful reception was accorded us when we left Bedford 
We marched through the High street, which was decked with 
flags, and all the inhabitants turned out and gave us a 
hearty send off; we felt quite the heroes of the day, with 
bands playing and songs sung, and tears were shed by some of 
the good folks who regretted our departure. 

We entrained, proceeded to Dover, and embarked 
on cross-channel steamers, duly arriving at Boulogne. 
Some distance from the port our boat stopped her 
engine and we stood motionless whilst the 
searchlights from the French coast were directed upon 
us for a while. 

We then proceeded into port and disembarked at about 11 p. 
m. We were marched a few miles to the top of a steep hill to 
the rest camp at Ostrohove, where we stayed the night under 
canvas . 


Service in France 


Now commenced the more serious part of the business, and 
the following day we entrained at Pont aux Briques for the 
line. We were packed into closed cattle trucks and spent 
the whole afternoon and most of the night bumped about and 
we wondered where we were to be finally deposited. The 
journey, during the night, seemed most weird and our 
feelings were decidedly mixed. We slid back one of the 
heavy truck doors and watched the flashes of the guns, 
although too far away for the reports to be heard. The men 
discussed what fate might have in store for them. 

We arrived at the railhead at Calonne-sur-Lys, 
a few miles from the firing line as day broke and 
unloaded the transports by the light of flares. We then 
paraded and marched through the village and were billeted 
in barns . Isolated graves, evidence of earlier fighting 
made me wonder what the future had in store. 

En route we passed Ghurkas on sentry duty and, to us, 
the Indian soldiers looked very weird, standing with 
their curved knives drawn. 

Only one letter a day was permitted for despatch 

by each man, for they had to be censored by the officers. 

This duty took a considerable amount of time. 

The dinners consisted of stew, made with tinned meat but 
there was an ample supply; matches were difficult to 
obtain other than those of French manufacture which were 
sulphur tipped, difficult to light, and emitted strong 
sulphur fumes . 

The following day we moved on a few miles to the town of 
Robecq and were again quartered in barns . We could hear the 
guns engaged in an incessant bombardment throughout the day 
and night, and streams of motor transports and ambulances 
passed through from the front line. 

Nearby ran a canal in which we bathed daily, and several 
estaminets were open where we could sit in the evenings; a 
very much out of tune piano was appreciated by the men who 
passed the time in singing songs and generally making 
merry. The most important item to the men, was the arrival 
of the post; great excitement always prevailed at the 
prospect of a letter or a parcel of food from home. 


The rumours that followed us to France were even more 
varied than those we had experienced in Bedford. 

One was to the effect that our folks at home had heard 
that the battalion had been into action and had 
suffered heavy casualities; we had not even been into 
the firing line. 

The reserve line of trenches, near here, was dug by 
French peasants who received three francs a day for 
their services. 


I joined the ambulance section of the battalion and 
was called a "battalion stretcher-bearer". The duties 
were normally carried out by members of the battalion 
band, who had handed in their instruments, but one 
more man was required to complete the complement of 
sixteen, viz, four to each company, and I volunteered 
on account of past experience with the St John 
Ambulance. We each wore a white armlet bearing the 
letters "S.B." in red. We paraded daily for practice 
in bandaging, etc. Although classed as ambulance men, 
regulations necessitated our carrying rifles and 
ammunition like the rest of the men. 

One day, my friend and I went to the top of the large 
Catholic church to get a view of the surrounding 
country and witnessed a fight in the air between some 
enemy and British aeroplanes. In the evening we 
visited a linseed oil factory. 

As we were billeted only a few miles from the front 
line trenches, the cost of cigarettes, fruit, cakes, 
etc. was heavy and beyond the limited means of the 


We rose very early and left for a destination 
some eighteen miles away. We proceeded in full 
marching order at a forced speed being allowed only 
short interval rests of a few minutes each. We passed 
through several villages that bore evidence of having 
been subjected to shellfire in the past, also the 
town of Merville. 

We duly reached our destination a few miles behind 
the trenches, and were quartered in barns at a place 
named Strazeele. Dotted about were the graves of men 
who had fallen earlier in the war and small wooden 
crosses marked the spots. Many of the houses had been 
knocked down by enemy shellfire. The enemy occupied 
this district in October 1914 but had since been 
driven back. 


In a field we found a large number of old horseshoes 
and evidently a mounted regiment had occupied the 
position. We amused ourselves by using them in games 
of quoits. 

The mails followed us up and great excitement was 
experienced by those fortunate enough to be the recipients. 
Here we heard that the district was 
infested by enemy spies. 

The following day, we attended (in full marching order) a 
church parade in an adjoining field. The booming of the 
guns could be heard and motor ambulances and transports 
continuously passed through. 

A piece of muslin, with a chemically treated wad in its 
centre, was issued to each man. This was to be tied 
tightly over the nose and mouth in the event of an attack 
by poison gas. Occasionally we saw our 

patrolling aeroplanes overhead. 

A battle progressed and, as we had not been able to reach 
the line in time to participate, mounted troops had been 
utilized as foot soldiers and sent into the trenches. We, 
therefore, stood by as a reserve body. 

After two days at this place, an emergency order caused 
us to leave at once and we marched through the night, in 
pouring rain, to another sector some sixteen miles 
distant where the booming of the guns could once more be 
heard. We halted at 4 a.m, and slept under a hedge for an 
hour, the rain still pouring down. After a hurried drink 
of tea and a nibble at a biscuit we were paraded and 
marched into the village of La Couture nearby. 

This village had badly suffered from enemy shellfire and 
scarcely a house remained intact. It was decided to 
billet my platoon in a house in the main street the roof 
of which was missing, as were all the windows and 
opposite stood a church which had also suffered. 

Eleven of us had settled down in a room on the third 
floor and, as we felt exceedingly hungry, we threw off 
our kit and proceeded to revive ourselves with tinned 
beef and biscuits. 


I had half opened a tin when I heard a terrific crash 
and, on looking through the aperture that had once been a 
window, saw in the light of a blinding flash that a large 
hole had appeared in the road. 

We realised that this was to be our first experience of 
shellfire and immediately grabbed our kit, tore down the 
rickety staircase and made for a small field in rear. I had 
just got clear of the backyard, when a huge shell landed and 
exploded with a deafening crash, blowing half of the house 
and a lot of kit to pieces. 

I threw myself into a partially dug trench at the end of the 
garden, and witnessed a steady bombardment of the village 
which lasted about half an hour. Houses and shops were blown 
into the air, for the shells were of very large calibre. 
The mails followed us up and great excitement was 
experienced by those fortunate enough to be the recipients. 
Here we heard that the district was infested by enemy spies. 

The following day, we attended (in full marching order) a 
church parade in an adjoining field. The booming of the 
guns could be heard and motor ambulances and transports 
continuously passed through. 

A piece of muslin, with a chemically treated wad in its 
centre, was issued to each man. This was to be tied 
tightly over the nose and mouth in the event of an attack 
by poison gas. Occasionally we saw our patrolling 
aeroplanes overhead. 

A battle progressed and, as we had not been able to reach 
the line in time to participate, mounted troops had been 
utilized as foot soldiers and sent into the trenches. We 
therefore stood by as a reserve body. 

After two days at this place, an emergency order caused 
us to leave at once and we marched through the night, in 
pouring rain, to another sector some sixteen miles 
distant where the booming of the guns could once more be 
heard. We halted at 4 a.m, and slept under a hedge for an 
hour, the rain still pouring down. After a hurried drink 
of tea and a nibble at a biscuit we were paraded and 
marched into the village of La Couture nearby. 


This village had badly suffered from enemy shellfire and 
scarcely a house remained intact. It was decided to 
billet my platoon in a house in the main street the roof 
of which was missing, as were all the windows and 
opposite stood a church which had also suffered. 

Eleven of us had settled down in a room on the third 
floor and, as we felt exceedingly hungry, we threw off 
our kit and proceeded to revive ourselves with tinned 
beef and biscuits. I had half opened a tin when I heard 
a terrific crash and, on looking through the aperture 
that had once been a window, saw in the light of a 
blinding flash that a large hole had appeared in the 

We realised that this was to be our first experience of 
shellfire and immediately grabbed our kit, tore down the 
rickety staircase and made for a small field in rear. 

I had just got clear of the backyard, when a huge shell 
landed and exploded with a deafening crash, blowing half of 
the house and a lot of kit to pieces. I threw myself into a 
partially dug trench at the end of the garden, and witnessed 
a steady bombardment of the village which lasted about half 
an hour. Houses and shops were blown into the air, for the 
shells were of very large calibre. 

After the affair had died down the stretcher-bearers were 
kept busy attending to the wounded. Needless to say, our 
feelings were very mixed, for the whole business happened 
suddenly and without warning. We were told, by an 
ant illeryman, that it was an act of madness to have ever 
billeted us in such a place, as the village was subjected 
daily to a bombardment lasting for about an hour. 

We were immediately paraded and marched about a quarter of 
a mile to a field behind the church, here we camped, but 
we hadn't occupied that position for more than an hour, 
when we again came in for a shelling. Some of our 
artillery had their positions around the field and the 
enemy endeavoured to put the guns out of action by long 
range gunfire. 

We scattered at once but shells burst all round and about 
the camping ground. Quite a number of men were hit. When 
things were quieter, we lay down for a night's rest. 


The experience seemed to have upset the man lying next me, 
for he shook the whole night. 

The following morning we were marched, through the 
village to another field just beyond, where we stayed for 
two or three days awaiting orders. 

The first afternoon in our new position we were again 
shelled and one man who was in the act of undoing a 
parcel from home had his head taken off his shoulders by 
a shell which omitted to explode. 

We were naturally getting tired of this perpetual 
shelling, especially in view of the fact that we had not 
yet even seen the trenches or a sign of the enemy; we had 
suffered casualities and seen nothing of the fighting. 

In the next field there was a battery of 9.2 guns 
belonging to the Canadian Artillery and the noise of 
their discharge was very loud. These guns kept up their 
fire at intervals throughout the nights, and the ground 
shook with the concussion. 

We were very tired and slept through it all. 

I experienced a very disagreeable smell when I lay down 
to sleep, and after investigating, found that I had been 
resting on a mound the earth of which barely covered the 
remains of some enemy soldiers who had been hurriedly 
buried at an earlier date. 

After two days under this periodic enemy shellfire the 
battalion received its orders to proceed to the trenches. 
The men paraded and moved off whilst I, with the rest of 
the battalion stretcher-bearers, reported to the Medical 
officer. We were to proceed independently. We loaded up the 
medical stores, stretchers, etc, and set off. 

We had some four or five miles to march to the firing line 
and, as it was dark and the doctor did not seem to know the 
route, we were kept going for half the night and wandered 
about in full marching order with our rifles slung, trying 
to find the battalion. 

In due course we found ourselves in a field not very far 
from what was obviously, the front line. 


We deduced this by reason of the rocket lights that rose and 
fell ahead of us and the doctor told us to stay where we 
were whilst he went on to see how the land lay. He was 
absent for an hour, during which time shells frequently fell 
too close to us for our comfort and, being new to the 
situation we did not know quite what to do. 

We had no notion where we were or in what direction to 
proceed. However, our Medical officer duly returned and 
informed us that we were some distance from the battalion 
which was on the left and that we were then near another 
regiment through taking the wrong direction. We set off 
again under his guidance and ultimately I reached my company 
occupying trenches at Richbourg-St-Vaat , just before dawn. 

A Guards Battalion had been relieved by my battalion and two 
of the companies were holding a part of the line whilst two 
others occupied the reserve trench. 

In between the support trench was manned by Ghurkas of the 
Meerut Division from India. 

That night was a bad one. 

A terrific storm with thunder and lightning had not 
improved matters. When I reached my company all the men 
were standing to, with bayonets fixed, soaked to the 
skin. The enemy kept up a continuous bombardment with 
heavy shells and a German attack was expected at dawn. 
Soon after I had joined my company the Major dashed up 
and stated that the enemy were advancing. We felt that 
fate was not behaving as nicely as she might have done 
and that, for the first night in the line, conditions 
were not exactly as comfortable as could be. 

However, we put up quite a good show and managed to 
pursuade the enemy to return to his lines. He left a 
number of dead and wounded outside our trench and was 
unable to penetrate our defence. 

Our front line trenches had, until the previous day, 
been occupied by the enemy but they had been captured 
by the Brigade of guards. The slaughter had been very 
heavy, hundreds of bodies lay about behind the front 
line trench, left there when the enemy had retreated. 


The stench of the battlefield was indescribable and during 
the nights that we occupied this small sector, we buried 
some eighteen hundred bodies by simply digging huge holes 
and, after placing them in, roughly covering them with 
earth. This work could only be carried out during the night, 
when we could not be seen, for throughout the day the enemy 
had snipers posted and it proved fatal to show oneself for a 
moment . 

We were subjected to a heavy bombardment throughout the 
period we occupied the line and, as a stretcher bearer, my 
time was fully occupied with the casualaties, bandaging 
the wounded and carrying them back to the dressing-station 
behind the line, or disposing of our dead. 

For food, we had to rely upon the iron rations with which we 
had been provided before marching into the line. These 
consisted of biscuits and bully beef. 

As the wind had been blowing away from our trenches we 
were not troubled by enemy gas attacks but we had been 
particularly annoyed by enemy snipers, who had been 
responsible for the deaths of several of the men. One 
sniper was duly located in a small ruin of a house between 
the enemy trench and our own. 

The artillery were notified and we had the pleasure of 
seeing a shell land on the offender's position. Another 
sniper was disposed of by two ghurkas who undertook to 
silence him. 

After dark they left their trench and in due 
course returned with the snipers head. They had found him 
in a position between the trenches, in a tub which was 
buried in the ground. 

The lid, covered with earth and in which beet appeared to 
be growing, had simply to be raised by the sniper whilst 
he fired his rifle. When lowered again, he was completely 
hidden from view. 

The surrounding country looked most desolate. No house 
remained standing, the trees had all been smashed down by 
she shellfire and the mud and filth knee deep. During the 
night parties of men were engaged upon repairing the 
trench and removing enemy dead from the dugouts recently 
captured . 


This work had to be carried out in the dark. 

Not a glimmer of light dared be shown otherwise enemy 
machinegun and rifle fire immediately resulted and 
inevitable casualities were suffered. The enemy fired 
lights into the air in order to see whether any activity 
was apparent on our side, and if we were out in front of 
the trench engaged upon erecting barbed wire 
entanglements or other work, we had to remain perfectly 
still until the flare of the lights had passed away in 
order to escape notice. 

I passed through one recently captured trench 
and saw many belts of enemy machine-gun ammunition, the 
bullets of the cartridges reversed. This was an inhuman 
practice for if hit by such a bullet, terrible injuries 
were inflicted. 

During the daytime, our aeroplanes flew over the German 
line to note any sign of an impending counter attack. 
The machines were subjected to anti-aircraft gunfire but 
carried on with their job continuously. 

Just before dawn one morning, after having occupied 
the trenches for a week or more, we were relieved by another 
battalion of the Brigade and marched back a few miles to the 
village of Locon. It was a relief to get away from all the 
mud and shellfire. 

We were billeted in old barns, which had suffered a 
little from shellfire and when we reached our new 
quarters we were so worn out that we simply threw off our 
kit, dropped to the ground and immediately fell asleep. 

Next morning we rose, breakfasted, thoroughly cleaned 
ourselves and our equipment and paraded for inspection. 
Our kit had to be perfectly clean and all metal work 
polished, although we had been up to our knees in mud 
only the previous night. 

We were complimented by the Brigadier on the manner in 
which we had conducted ourselves during our first 
experience of real warfare. 

The men washed their underclothes in a neighbouring 
stream and put them out to dry. 


Whilst in the trenches we had all been troubled with lice 
and we took this first opportunity of ridding ourselves of 
these pests, if only for a short while. 

We rested here for a day or two and then moved on to 
further quarters which, although situated some distance 
from the trenches, were subjected to enemy shellfire. 

On such occasions we took cover in small dugouts with 
sandbagged roofs, each of which were only splinter 
proof and useless against a comparatively direct hit 
from a shell. 

The shelters were named by their occupants and mine 
bore the name "Hotel Cecil" on a board outside. 

Although we were supposed to be resting, in reality we 
were worked harder than would have been the case had we 
occupied the firing line. 

Fatigue parties were at work day and night and, during the 
night, we were marched for miles to the trenches and kept 
at work digging communication trenches, burying dead, and 
erecting barbed wire entanglements etc. (often, coming 
under shell and gun fire during these operations) . We 
returned to the "resting place" about 5 am. dead tired and 
hungry. Generally, we had the added discomfort of pouring 
rain and deep mud to contend with, in point of fact 
occupying the trenches was preferred. 

June . 

Balmoral bonnets were supplied in place of the 
glengarries and we returned to occupy trenches at The 
Orchard, Festubert. Here, many dead were lying around 
and the stench was atrocious. The company had been 
shelled at intervals the whole way from billets and 
many times the men had to take cover and wait until 
things had quietened down. Dodging these bursts was 
simply a matter of luck. 

The road was pitted with huge shellholes and two of 
the men were reputed to have sustained fractured 
ankles by slipping into them in the dark. 


The distance from reserve to the front line was too 
far for a communication trench to be constructed and 
the enemy was ranged on all the roads and possible 
routes which he constantly shelled. 

When near the front line advancing over open country, 
we had to stand still whenever the enemy fired his 
flare lights into the air. Signs of movement would have 
brought machinegun and rifle fire upon us. 

That part of the line was extremely lively for 
the enemy fire which consisted of artillery, trench 
mortar , machinegun and rifle, kept up a more or less 
continuous bombardment. Added to this the trenches had 
been hurriedly repaired and in many places were not even 
bulletproof and possessed no dugouts. 

As soon as we had settled down work commenced. Sandbags 
were filled and the contstruct ion of the trench 
proceeded. This work was done during the night but much 
of it was undone by the enemy shell fire during the day. 
He shelled the trench and knocked it in again. 

Snipers were very active. 

We were subjected to an intense bombardment and stood to to 
resist a German attack, which was again accompanied by a 
heavy storm with thunder and lightning. 

Here I had rather a lucky escape; a large enemy shell landed 
on the top of the trench breastwork, opposite to me, but 
failed to explode. It remained in that position during the 
time we occupied that sector; we treated it with the 
greatest respect and left it severely alone lest it should 
explode . 

We had many casualities throughout the bombardment and I was 
kept busy the whole day, and the following night attending 
to the wounded and burying the dead. I was particularly 
sorry for one man, he had had a leg blown off early that 
morning, when I had immediately placed a tourniquet on the 
stump to save him from bleeding to death. 

Whilst doing that service, a huge shell had landed nearby 
and covered us with earth and stones . 


As it had been quite impossible to leave the trench in 
daylight, owing to the terrific fire of the enemy, this man 
remained propped against the side of the trench until it was 
dark . 

Another stretcher-bearer, and I then placed him on to a 
stretcher and set out for the dressing-station in the 
reserve line. 

It was an unforgetable night; the whole ground had been 
ploughed into liquid mud by the continuous shell fire and 
every step we took with the stretcher caused us to sink in 
up to our knees. Added to this, the ground was strewn with 
bodies which we could not avoid in the dark. At intervals we 
had to lower the stretcher and lie in the mud to escape 
splinters from the big shells that exploded on our route. 

The whole affair was like a nightmare for it took from 7 pm. 
until 5am. the next morning to carry the wounded man a 
distance of about a quarter of a mile. By the time we had 
reached the dressing-station, and handed him over to the 
Doctor, the tourniquet had been on his leg for forty-eight 
hours and he had been under shell fire the whole time. 

My fellow stretcher-bearer and I were completely exhausted 
and threw ourselves to the ground for a rest before 
returning to the trench. The dressing-station on was full of 
wounded, waiting for the ambulances to come up after dark 
from the clearing station in the rear. 

It was pitiful to watch the expressions on their faces as, 
in their helplessness, they heard the bursting of enemy 
shells in close proximity and wondered whether one would 
drop on the dressing station. I did not envy the Medical 
officer who had to carry out his duties under such awful 
conditions . 

Whilst in this part of the line, we obtained water for 
washing and shaving purposes from shell holes which the rain 
had filled. I daily adjourned to one to carry out my toilet 
and it was situated behind the parados of the trench; the 
water, on which a green scum floated, was rank but had to 
serve its purpose for ablution requirements. The water 
receded, as the days passed, until one morning I discerned 
the body of a man at the bottom when I knelt down to wash; 
it occurred to me that the time had arrived when I should 
seek a more savoury position. 


After a week of the foregoing conditions, we were relieved 
and then dropped back into the reserve trenches for a few 
days, and later were marched back to more rest billets a few 
miles behind the line. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of cleansing ourselves 
of the mud and lice and opened our letters and parcels which 
had arrived and were with the transport section. We slept in 
dilapidated barns and, as one of the men was the possessor 
of a concertina, many sing songs took place. 

The company returned to the trenches and, after six days of 
occupation under periodical heavy shellfire, in which we 
suffered many casualities, were warned that the following 
day we were to attack the Prussian Guards who were opposite. 
I occupied a small shelter which as constructed of sandbags. 
On the top, earth had been piled and, in this, a body had 
been buried so that the feet of the victim protruded over 
the doorway facing the shelter entrance. About four yards 
away was the grave of a fallen soldier with its rough wooden 
cross surmounted by a broken rifle and a clip of cartridges 
and so I had a pleasant outlook. 

We understood that the French were to make a big attack an 
our right. It was realised that with the limited number of 
troops available it could not be hoped to even reach the 
enemy lines, especially as the attack was planned to take 
place at 2 pm, in broad daylight. Yet it was proposed to 
sacrifice a whole company of men as a feint in order to 
impress the enemy that an attack was to take place in our 
sector, thus prevent him from sending his reserves to the 
part of the line where the French were to 'take' the 
offensive . 

It was a gloriously sunny day and, after two hours 
bombardmentent , "C" company was ordered over; the stretcher- 
bearers followed to render assistance to the wounded if 
practicable. Directly our bombardment had ceased, the enemy 
opened with his machine guns and swept the parapet of the 
trench and many men were wounded or killed as soon as their 
heads appeared above the top. The rest of us succeeded in 
advancing towards the enemy trench but the fire was so 
heavy, we only managed to proceed half the distance and were 
then forced to lie down and take any cover we could. The 
bombardment of our artillery had failed to destroy the enemy 
barbed wire entanglements. 


The German artillery was directed upon us and every moment 
the ranks were being thinned all the officers had been 
killed or wounded and tt was realised the impossibility of 
endeavouring to push further forward. 

The only chance to survive was to keep under cover unseen in 
the hope of getting back to our own trench after dark; this 
we did. 

Out of a full company, only twelve of us got back untouched 
and the senior one was made a sergeant. All the officers and 
non-commissioned officers had been killed or wounded. My 
fellow stretcher-bearer and I spent the whole night getting 
in the wounded and bandaging and conveying them to the 
dressing-station; we felt worn out and hungry. 

The following day, it was decided to indulge in a similar 
experiment and that the men of "B" Company were to be the 
victims. Needless to say, when the men heard of the treat in 
store far them, they contemplated the order with many 
misgivings and viewed the idea as one of pure murder. 
They resented the thought of being sacrificed when they 
had no hope of even reaching the enemy trench. This 
company occupied the support line and once again I was 
to accompany the men when they made the attack. 

At midday (after a bombardment lasting for an hour or so) 
the company proceeded up a communication trench to the 
jumping off place. This communication trench was only 
partially dug and we were subjected to a perfect hail of 
indirect machinegun bullets which kicked up the ground 
around us. The enemy also replied to our bombardment by 
sending over shrapnel shells both fast and furious. 

We lay in the bottom of the trench for a few moments, 
endeavouring to get cover, and a shrapnel shell burst just 
above us and killed a sergeant and some men who were 
occupying a traverse of the trench but I, being at the end, 
just managed to escape; shrapnel bullets peppered the ground 
around us. 

It was too hot a corner in which to remain and we jumped up 
and, in keeping ourselves as low as possible, were forced to 
walk over the bodies of our late comrades. 


We reached the front trench and waited a few minutes for the 
order to go over the top. 

A ditch ran at right angles to our front line 
and it had been decided that, at a given signal, we were 
to crawl along it in single file and, when at the end, to 
extend quickly, lie down and then rush the enemy trench. 
The whistle blew and we proceeded according to plan. 

The Captain was leading and he called a halt as soon as 
he had reached the end of the ditch and then gave the 
order to stand up in readiness to extend. An enemy 
machinegun suddenly opened fire and this officer was shot 
through lung. He was a great favourite with the men and 
said "Cheer up boys, I'm glad it is neither of you. 
carry on and the best of luck". At that moment, a runner 
from the Colonel (who had been watching operations from 
the front line trench) passed up a message that the 
attack had been postponed and that we were to return to 
the trench. 

The feelings of relief experienced by us all cannot be 
readily realised, for we knew that had we carried on with 
the attack, we would have been wiped out in a similar 
manner to "C" Company the previous day. We afterwards 
heard that our attack had been talked about for a week 
past, in the hope that information would reach the enemy 
and so keep him from transferring any of his reserves to 
resist the French attack which, was to take place on our 
right . 

We were handicapped by the tremendous superiority of the 
enemy artillery, for he possessed an unlimited supply of 
shells of large calibre, whilst the number of shells was 
rationed to our guns. In consequence, we were subjected to 
intense bombardments and a telephone message to our 
artillery would only result in a limited number of rounds 
being fired in reply. When our artillery shelled the enemy, 
he was sure to .reply with double the number of shells and, 
in the end, we came off second best. When we first entered 
the trenches, our artillery possessed old reconditioned 
guns which were unreliable; they occasionally fired shells 
into our own trenches by reason of their dropping short of 
their objective. 


In due course, we were relieved and marched back to a 
small farm behind the line. We reached there in the early 
hours of the morning and found a field kitchen busily 
engaged in making tea. We were wet through, tired out and 
hungry, and the hot tea was a wonderful stimulent. 

At dawn we resumed our march to a lovely spot some eight 
or nine miles back and with our ground sheets, we erected 
improvised tents in a small orchard situated in the centre 
of a copse of nut trees. It would be impossible to express 
the wonderful feeling of enjoyment we experienced in being 
transplanted to that lovely spot, with the sweet smell of 
honeysuckle and the singing of the birds, after the nerve 
wracking time we had just passed through. 

The mails had accumulated and the usual excitement 
prevailed when the cry "the post is up" was carried from 
mouth to mouth. We gathered round the pile of letters and 
parcels and one sensed, more than ever, the brutality of 
war, for on turning over many of the parcels I noted that 
they were addressed to the poor fellows who had been 
killed. The personal element now crept in and was 
emphasised by the appearance of the homely writing of the 
addresses on the packages, writtenn by wives or parents. 

Looking back upon our recent attacks, I realised the luck 
of the game and the narrow escape that had been constantly 
experienced, now we were resting in such perfect 
surroundings the feeling of safety and quietude was 
heavenly with no fear of heavy shells unexpectedly dropping 
around us. I recalled to mind my recent surroundings and 
pictured, in detail, the mud and filth and the hasty burial 
of the dead just outside the trench, with the places marked 
by simple rough crosses surmounted by broken rifles or 
parts of equipment belonging to the unfortunate men. 

After resting for a few days, we received, whilst a heavy 
thunderstorm was once again in progress, the news that we 
were to move off the following day. We marched some ten 
miles to the town of staires , arriving about midnight. My 
company was quartered in a large factory containing spinnin- 
looms. The floor was a cobblestone one and not very 
comfortable to sleep upon but preferred to deep mud. 

At an earlier date, the enemy had used these premises for a 
similar purpose. 


During the following afternoon, my friend and I inspected 
the town and visited a large Catholic Church, which was a 
magnificent building and contained elaborately decorated 
altars and chapels. It was a hot afternoon and we later sat 
by the side of the river. Although this town was situated 
only a few miles behind the line it had not received much 
damage from shellfire, many of the shops were occupied and 
doing business. 

On Sunday, we attended church parade in an adjoining field. 

Later, we moved on to a new position and three companies 
of the battalion occupied a portion of the front line at 
Laventie, whilst my Company was placed in partially 
demolished houses and barns in reserve. This part was 
quiet, for shellfire was negligible, although rifle and 
machinegun fire were very active. We had been drafted to 
this quiet sector for a rest and to await for 
reinforcements of officers and men from England. 
Sleeping on the floor of the billets, at intervals we 
could hear bullets hitting the walls and passing through 
the laths and plaster; dust showered down upon us. 

All the troops were eagerly awaiting the arrival in 
France of the New Army, recruited by Lord Kitchener, for 
it was anticipated that their appearance would mean a 
longer rest from the trenches and shorter spells on the 
line. We had heard so much about the formation of this 
New Army and had waited so long for it to appear that 
the men were becoming sceptical of its existence, for 
they thought that it was another rumour circulated to 
keep up the morale of the troops already fighting. The 
following conversation could be heard shouted, as one 
battalion passed another on the march, "Seen any of 
Kitcheners Army?". Reply, "oh, shut up, you know d-- well 
it is only a yarn and that there is no such thing" . This 
army was to have been ready in May and even the enemy 
had shouted across - "Vere is dot Kitchener Army". 

July . 

We had been engaged in digging communication trenches. The 
reinforcements of officers and men arrived and were posted 
to the various companies. Our new officers were splendid 
men who had already served in France with the London 
Scottish and had been granted commissions. 


The Engineer sappers had mined an enemy front line trench 
and, at midday, we stood to and , waited for it to be fired. 
A terrific explosion took place and about seventy yards of 
trench was blown up; sandbags, pieces of timber, earth and 
stones, etc. were hurled into the air and our artillery 
opened with shrapnel shells. I couldn't help but feel a 
little sorry for its occupants. 

The trenches were fairly close to each other in this sector 
and, at nights, the Germans could be heard singing. My 
company duly took its turn in the front line and, an hour 
before dawn each day, we had to stand for it was at this 
time (between the lights) that a surprise attack took 
place. Flare rockets from each side went up at intervals. 

It was comparitively quiet throughout the day, with only 
occasional fire from the sentries. Enemy snipers were very 
active and it was dangerous to permit even a moment ' s 
exposure above the trench or the result, would be fatal. 
Several careless indiuiduals were shot through the head. 
The weather was extremely warm and a change from the very 
wet time we had recently experienced. The flies were 
numerous and a nuisance. The sentries kept a lookout by 
using steel loopholes and periscopes. 

There was a saying "that wherever the Highland 
Division is, so the shells follow". We understood 
the truth of this, for weeks past the sector had been 
quiet but we received orderd to "liven things up". Our 
artillery started the business and, of course, the enemy 
brought up his guns and retaliated. Trench mortar bombs 
were frequently sent over and, as the enemy projectiles 
were larger and more deadly than ours, we were not too 
cheery about the affair. During the day, enemy mortar 
bombs could be seen in the air; sentries were posted to 
warn us of the approach of these unwelcome visitors. 

They were fired into the air to a great height and turned 
over and over on their way down to their objective; as 
soon as the cry "trench mortar" was heard, all eyes were 
turned to the sky and anxious efforts made to locate the 
objects, whilst speculation was indulged to their 
probable places of landing; we stood in readiness to run 
to right or left in an effort to dodge them. They landed 
with thuds and, in about a second, exploded with 
deafening crashes. Heads were kept low to avoid the 
flying splinters. 


The duty of patrol work was not looked upon with any great 
amount of pleasure. Several of us were detailed to creep 
towards the enemy trench, under the guidance of an officer, 
get as close as possible in order to listen and endeavour to 
ascertain whether certain sectors were occupied by German 
troops and note any sign of special activity. 

On occasions we would see an enemy patrol approaching our 
line bent on a similar errand and we lay down and remained 
quiet until it had passed. Patrols usually evaded one 
another if possible, because if they did happen to stumble 
upon one another in the dark and become engaged in a fight, 
possibly both patrols would be wiped out. We selected a 
large shell hole near the enemy barbed wire entanglements 
and lay there for about an hour. Previously to this a 
messabge was passed to the sentries in our front line to be 
careful when firing, to watch for our return and not mistake 
us for the enemy. 

After a spell in this sector we were relieved and marched 
back through the town of Laventie, which had suffered 
severly from the shellfire and I came to rest in an old 
coachouse. The following day we had a game of football in a 
field, whilst shells were bursting in the town. One Sunday I 
counted over a hundred heavy shells fired into and about the 
town by a long range enemy gun. The church was in complete 
ruins, only parts of the outside walls remained standing. 

The first night we were "resting" we were formed into 
fatigue parties and marched back to the front line, each man 
carrying stores of some sort such as corrugated iron sheets, 
sandbags etc. 

All the roads behind were periodically swept with enemy 
machinegun fire and, at one place, we had to lie down for 
nearly half and hour and take cover behind the ruins of a 
house until it was safe to hurry on. We had two fellows 
wounded in the ankle. 

Other nights we were engaged in digging communication 
trenches. Each morning we were paraded for inspection and 
there was no excuse accepted for either mus on the uniform 
or rust on the rifle or bayonet; even the pleats of the 
kilts were examined by the officer. 


This spell was equivalent to thirty days in the trenches; we 
were occupied in the reserve for six days, ^resting' for six 
days, back in the front line for six days and then six days 
in reserve again. 

The fatigue work was carried out under intermittant 
machinegun and rifle fire which was often of a more exposed 
character than that of front line duty, especially in the 
case of the fixing of barbed wire entanglements out in front 
of the trench. 

Whilst out ^resting' , small parties of men were marched to 
an old mill where tubs had been installed. Each man enjoyed 
a nice hot bath, which was much appreciated as being the 
first experienced since arrival in France. 

Afterwards we were supplied, in an upstairs room, with clean 
socks and shirts and our kilts were disinfected. 
An old trench, behind the front line, gave evidence of 
earlier fighting in the war. It had apparently been captured 
by the French from the Germans. I walked through it out of 
curiosity, and noted that it had been badly smashed during a 
bombardment and many half buried bodies lay about. I came 
upon a complete skeleton in a French uniform. A party of men 
were engaged in digging up some enemy remains in order to 
find the helmets, to clean up and sell as souvenirs for a 
few francs when they went on leave to the base. I watched 
for a time but the smell was so atrocious I left them to 
their occupation. 

The enemy daily treated us to a shelling from a long range 
fun of an armoured train. The shells must have been of very 
large calibre, for when they exploded the noise was terrific 
and the ground shook. 

When out of the line, orders were at times read out by a 
non-commissioned officer. One item that was always received 
in silence was the intimation that a certain man of a given 
regiment has been found guilty of cowardice and that the 
sentence of death had been duly carried out. We all knew the 
strain liable to be placed upon a man in the thick of a 
fight and could imagine the awful feelings that must have 
driven him to falter. It was a debatable point as to when a 
man could be accused of cowardice or whether he was simply 
suffering from broken nerve and not responsible for his 
actions. Reasoning the matter. 


We realised that a man who hesitated at a critical moment or 
turned tail, might easily be instrumental in ruining an 
attack, for in war when mens nerves are strained to the 
utmost, a panic might easily develop and in consequence, 
immediate obeyance of orders was essential. 

We had been amused by the descriptions appearing in the 
newspapers regarding life at the front. According to their 
reports we had been enjoying hot baths every time we left 
the trenches and were treated to concerts and shows behind 
the lines. So far we had only seen one delapidated piano 
in an estaminet. The splendid food was also alluded to; even 
when we were resting, we received, either stew or biscuits 
and tinned beef. Breakfast and tea consisted of one sixth 
of a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese, and one insignificant 
rasher of driedup bacon. For tea, we had one sixth of a loaf 
of bread with cheese and, sometimes a tin of jam was shared 
between a number of us. 

It will, readily be appreciated that the parcels from 
home were shared, with their little unexpected titbits 
of tinned fruit, real loaves of bread, butter and 
possibly cigarettes, which delicacies were much 

The men serving at the base, miles from the fighting, were 
envied. They were able to enjoy good food and, no doubt the 
concerts and shows were arranged for their benefit. They 
must have been gifted with good imagination, for they 
appeared to be past masters in the art of retailing episodes 
of the firing line, although they had to rely upon the 
newspapers for their information and not personal 
experience . 

Some of the men engaged behind the line were aware of their 
good fortune. One driver, attached to the Army Service Corps 
said that he wouldn't have been an infantryman for a pound a 
day . 

The Royal Medical Corps unfortunately earned itself the 
title "Rob all my comrades", by reason of the 
disgraceful conduct of certain of its men in 
appropriating the souvenirs etc, of the wounded men in 
the hospitals and sending them to their homes. 

Many wounded man recovered only to find that his 
souvenirs, which he had been cherishing for weeks past, 


had been taken by some enterprising collector. It was 
rather irritating for this Corps to have earned such an, 
uncomplimentary nickname, which was only occasioned by 
the misdemeanour of a few callous wrongdoers. 

One night, I sat in a dugout (which had a sack fixed across 
its doorway to prevent even a glimmer of light, from the 
stump of a candle, being seen by the enemy) trying to read 
an old newspaper. 

The dugout was just large enough for me to crawl into and 
was dug into the side of the trench. Suddenly the cry 
"stretcher-bearers" reached my ear. I immediately grabbed 
my bag of bandages and stumbled out into the dark, just as 
my companion appeared. We picked up the stretcher and 
proceeded along the trench until stopped by a group of two 
or three men. 

They informed us that a working party had been 

out in front of the trench and a machinegun had opened fire 

ending with one of them being shot dead. 

The party had at once rushed into the trench and two 
stretcher-bearers had gone out to bring in the man. Whilst 
engaged upon this duty a machinegun had again opened fire 
one of the stretcher-bearers had been shot through the head 
and killed. As it now seemed fairly quiet we decided to go 
out and bring in the two bodies. 

I realised that negotiating a stretcher would prove 
difficult and we decided to take a ground sheet. 

We no sooner reached the spot when again the machinegun 
opened fire, we lay flat on the ground and took cover behind 
the bodies of our late companions whilst bullets struck the 
ground around and threw earth over us. 

At the first lull in the fire we quickly rolled one man on 
to the sheet and, crawling on our stomach, dragged him into 
the trench. Dodging a second burst of fire, we returned and 
fetched in the second man in a similar manner. We examined 
them and found that had both been shot through the head and 
killed instantly. The next morning we laced them in their 
ground sheet and buried them. 


In due course we were relieved by Indian troops and 
marched back about eight miles, through the town of 
Estaires, to the neighbourhood of another town and were 
quartered in a barn. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest from 
the firing line and I visited an aerodrome nearby and 
watched the return of our aeroplanes from observation work 
over the enemy lines. The wings of some of the machines 
had been riddled by bullets. 

After two or three days we entrained and, after a fourteen 
hour journey, reached the Somme area. The transport was 
unloaded at a place named Corbie and we were marched to 
Pont Noyelle. Windows of houses were raised and the 
inhabitants gazed at us as we passed by in the dark of the 
night. We were now about fifteen miles from the front line 
and speculated at what kind of sector we would be called 
upon to hold. The following day we were inspected by the 
General Commanding the Third Army. 

On the top of a hill near the village, I visited the 
monument which had been erected to commemorate the 
Franco-German war of 1370. I entered into 
conversation with two aged inhabitants of the village 
and they I informed me that the Uhlans had visited 
that part in the early days of the war and they 
remembered the Germans being there during the 1870 
war; bullet marks in the door of their house were 
pointed out in confirmation. 

Two days later, we commenced on a fifteen miles march 
towards the front line and, during the journey, the 
field kitchens prepared food for us to have during one 
of the short rests. 

We duly passed through the town of Albert, and noted 
that it had badly suffered from shell fire, sections 
were in complete ruins. The large cathedral had each day 
been subjected to heavy artillery fire and the large 
figure of the Madonna and Child, at the top of the 
steeple, leant over at rightangles . This figure was 
expected to fal at any moment and a superstition existed 
amongst the French troops to the effect that once it did 
fall, the war would end. The town was shelled throughout 
the day and night and transports and men were, at times, 
unsuccessful in dodging the salvos of shells; casualties 
were numerous . 


We came to rest in the village of Autuille which 
is situated at the foot of a hill just behind the line. 
We were the first division of British troops to relieve 
the Trench on the Somme. 

The sector was extraordinarily quiet, especially in 
comparispon with Festubert and, although the village 
was in such close proximity to the front line trench, 
it had been very slightly damaged. Several estaminets 
still dispensed their refreshments. 

Here we found large dugouts and the French troop 
had evidently believed in comfort, for they had constructed 
beds, made from struts and covered with wire netting which 
were very comfortable. They had also constructed rustic 
tables and chairs. In an old house I found a very much out of 
tune piano and accompanied a mixture of French and British 
troops in a singsong. The French troops gave us a hearty 
welcome and informed us that the sector was extremely quiet 
and that only eight light shells a day were fired into the 
village. They were sent over in pairs at the following times 
11 am, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m., and the French artillery 
replied similarly. 

At the times stated, the trench troops had gone into the 
dugouts, whilst the shells burst, and returned to the 
estaminets at the conclusion of the comic bombardment. 

We thought this to be an extraordinary way of carrying on 
war but were prepared to enjoy our improved surroundings. We 
were also informed that, previous to our arrival, the enemy 
had shouted across to the French that they were being 
relieved by Scottish troops and the French had ridiculed the 
idea. The secret intelligence of the enemy was extraordinary 
and he seemed to know, in detail, the movements of our 
troops . 

The brigadier made a statement that X I have the boys to 
liven things up' . We presumed that a quiet future could not 
be anticipated. 

At night, in our dugouts, we were annoyed by a pest of 
mosquitos attracted by the swampy district; also hordes of 
rats. We had ratting expeditions and, armed with wooden 
clubs, exterminated as many as possible. These rats were 
very large and scampered about during the night, sometimes 
running over the face of a sleeper. 


They made an annoying noise and fought for food and often 
eatables left in a pocket would cause a tunic to be gnawed 
through . 

We later occupied the front line trench and our artillery, 
having moved into position, commenced to range upon the 
enemy trenches. 

At dawn on the first day, we found on our barbed wire 
entanglements, a piece of paper on which was a written 
request that two or three of our men would, at a given time 
proceed half way across no mans land and meet a similar 
number of Germans in order to exchange periodicals and 
souvenirs, as the French had been accustomed to do. 

After a consultation, our interpreter and two men agreed 
and, at noon, met the enemy halfway; the heads of the troop 
on each side were above the parapets and no firing took 
place. Later, when we left the trenches, we were paraded 
before the Commanding Officer and severely reprimanded. He 
stated that x it was impossible to fight a man with one hand 
and give him chocolates with the other' . We were given to 
understand that any similar action in the future would be 
severly dealt with. 

As our artillery became more active, that of the enemy also 
increased and, one day, the enemy fired a mine under our 
trench . 

It had been incorrectly laid and simply gave us a shake up 
and knocked in a stretch of trench so the casualties were 
only slight. As things started to liven up the village 
suffered and the houses were gradually razed to the ground. 

A part of Kitcheners New Army had now arrived in France and 
batches were sent into the line for instruction. Although 
the village had not suffered very much so far, I was amused 
by the remark of one of the newcomers - x By gum, they've 
given it to this place' ; the damage was nothing as compared 
with villages we had previously occupied. 


Le portail de la Basilique (Albert, the Somme) 

Le clocher de Notre-Damn de Brebieres (Albert, The Somme) 

The Question followed,- ^ Is it quiet here?". At that moment 
a battery of our guns opened fire to the speaker's 
consternation, who asked - "What's that?"; I put his mind 
at rest by informing him that the noise was from our own 
artillery. The approach to the village was through a dense 
wood and a party of the newcomers passed that way. They 
were uneasy concerning the flashes and explosions in the 
wood and relieved when told that they were only caused by 
our guns. I sympathised with them in their perplexity for I 
remembered so well my own feelings when I received my first 
initiation . 


The enemy troops had been relieved and, once again, we had the 
Prussian Guards in front of us. They had followed us down from 
Festubert . We knew that before long old conditions would 
return, in the livening process desired by the Brigadier. 

August . 

We were engaged upon digging communication trenches in 
readiness for greater activity in the future. It poured with 
rain and we were up to our knees in chalky water. 

After two weeks in the line, we were marched back to a 
village named Martinsart where we~slept in barns during a 
spell of duty in reserve . Periodically at night, alarms 
brought us to parade in readiness to move off. These were, 
however, false and ordered for practice. We were timed to 
turn out in a few minutes. 

A friend of mine, one night, placed a piece of "paper over 
his face in order to keep away mosquitos. This paper had 
contained a cake from home and still had crumbs adhering to 
it. He was awakened by a rat coming on to his face to feed. 

We marched a few miles on one occasion and were detailed to 
dig dug outs for the artillery (much to the disgust of the 
men) . 

A week's rest being ended, we returned to the front-line. This 
time in front of the village of Aveluy . The trenches were cut 
in chalk and when it rained the water presented the appearance 
of milk as it flowed along; welooked like a lot of miliars. The 
dugouts were quite comfortable and the sector was fairly quiet. 
The enemy only fired small shells, nicknamed by the men 'Cheeky 
Charlies' , 'Pip squeaks' or 'Wiz-bangs' . 

The larger shells, when fired at a long range, could be heard 
approaching by their deep whistle, which got louder and louder 
as they came nearer and seemed to lumber through the air and 
were called 'Weary Willies', 'Jack Johnsons' or 'Coal Boxes'; 
the last named by-reason of the huge columns of black smoke 
that trailed skyward after they had exploded. 

Whilst the French occupied the sector, they had only 
roughly buried some bodies in the parados of the trench 
and portions were protruding through the side in one 
place, a body was buried on the roof of a small dugout. 


Our field kitchens were situated about a mile to the rear 
and with them was one belonging to the new Kitchener Army, 
attached for instructional purposes. 

The cook in charge visited us in the firing line, to look 
round. He was a humourous individual and kept us amused. 
He informed us that when the first shell burst near his 
cooker, he had jumped nearly eighteen feet into the air. 
He had been a member of Fred Karno's Company and had acted 
in a sketch called "The Mumming Birds" (which I had seen 
in London), with Charlie Chaplin. 

We were daily shelled but our casualties were light. More 
thunderstorms occurred and the trenches were deep in water 
and we waded in thick chalky mud. 

On one occasion, instead of using the communications 
trench, one of the men decided to proceed from the 
supports to reserve over the open country. He was seen by 
our much loved ( 1 ) Adjutant, who ordered him into the 
trench and said, A We don't mind you being killed, it's the 
damned nuisance of having to bury you that annoys us' . 

That spell in the line finished, we were relieved and 
marched back to the village of Millencourt , for a "rest". W 
were informed that we were to remain in the sector during 
the Winter and the usual round of trench digging, carrying 
up stores, etc. kept us busy for a few days and then we 
moved to another village Bouzincourt . We were again 
quartered in barns. 

We returned to the front line at La Boiselle, only fifteen 
yards separated the enemy trench from our own. It had been 
comparatively quiet and the Germans and men had exchanged 
souvenirs by simply tossing them from one trench to the 
other . 

One day, however, one of men shouted out "I'm sending over 
present, Fritz". Instead of throwing a souvenir, he threw a 
live bomb. 

From that time onwards, the place was a little hell to 
occupy and each side periodically exchanged huge trench 
mortar bombs throughout the day and night and, added to 
that, mining and counter-mining took place. As soon as 
the trench was built up, it was smashed down again. 


It became impossible for either the enemy or ourselves 
to occupy that part of the trench during the day but at 
night, sentries had to crawl out to watch and listen. 
The slightest sound caused the enemy to open fire with 
his trench mortars and casualties mounted up quickly 
whilst we held this part. 

The sentries were relieved every half an hour and glad 
they were to rejoin their company, for they never knew 
during their turn of duty, when a bomb might blow them 
to pieces. The trench and dugouts were smashed flat and 
it was useless to repair them. 

Our artillery had, by then, become exceedingly expert 
and were supported with guns of a large calibre and a 
more plentiful supply of ammunition. 

On-one occasion, the enemy had troubled us with rather 
large number of his heavy mortar bombs, thus causing 
considerable damage, and our artillery was telephoned to 
reply and silence them. We were instructed to withdraw from 
the front trench to the support line, and a battery of our 
artillery opened fire with very large shells. I looked over 
the top of the trench and watched them exploding on the 
enemy trench, blowing a timber and sandbags into the air. 
The result was apparently satisfactory, for we had a rest 
from the bombs . 

A deep winding communication trench followed its way to 
the front line; this we appreciated after being used to 
taking a chance over flat open country. 

I had been kept busy with casualties. One night, when a 
traverse of the trench was occupied by three of the New 
Army who had come up for instruction, an enemy mortar 
bomb landed amongst them. I hurried to their assistance 
and found the trench completely knocked in and the men 
partially buried. 

It was pitch dark and I was handicapped by being unable 
to show even a glimmer of light, or a machinegun would 
have immediately opened fire upon that part of the 
trench which now had a big gap in it . Groping in the 
mud, I discovered that one man had been killed but that 
the others were living. 


The two survivors I managed to drag into a small dugout 
nearby and after carefully screening the doorway with 
sacks, lit a candle stump and proceeded to render all 
assistance possible. 

One man had a leg blown away and the other was peppered all 
over with small wounds. The former, after attention was 
taken to the dressing station but the latter died in my 
arms. I felt particularly sorry for the poor fellows 
because it was their first visit to the line and they had 
only been in the trench for about hour. Added to those 
casualties were eleven men of the Engineers who were gassed 
whilst engaged in digging a mine. 

We spent six days in the line and were then relieved by a 
battalion of the New Army and marched back to Helencourt a 
few miles behind the line. Here we were paraded in a 

field and inspected by Lord Kitchener. 

After four days of fatigue work digging trench behind the 
town of Albert, etc. we returned to the front line at 
Aveluy. In addition to the usual incidents three items of 
interest occurred. 

The Brigadier made a tour of inspection of the front line. 
This particular sector was quiet, which would no doubt 
account for the appearance of the General and his Staff, 
for they generally kept well to the rear when any activity 
was evidenced. The General passed along the trench, halted, 
and having enquiry as to whether it was safe to look over 
the gingerly hoisted himself on to the firing step, looked 
over the top and took a hurried glance at the enemy trench 
opposite . 

He stepped down into the trench not having been fired upon 
during the moment he had looked over the top, informed the 
Captain of my company that as it was so quiet, it was 
possible that the Germans were not occupying their front 
trench and that, as a test a tunic and cap were to be 
placed on a rifle and held just above the top of the 
trench, whilst he continued his inspection of the sector. 
Upon his return, we would examine the tunic and, if found 
to be riddled could be safely assumed that the enemy had 
not forgotten the war and gone home. 


We knew quite well that the enemy occupied his trench in an 
exceedingly efficient manner, by reason of the rapid fire 
to which we had been subjected. 

However, as soon as the General had passed on and the tunic 
and cap had been exposed as ordered the Captain whispered 
hurried instructions to severel of the men to open fire on 
the tunic with their rifles; when the staff returned, ample 
evidence was afforded of the activity of the enemy. The 
Captain knew perfectly well that, had the clothing by some 
unforeseen chance not been bullet ridden, parties would 
have been detailed to go over to the enemy trench after 
dark and investigate. 

None of us were exactly excited at the prospect. 

Whilst in this part of the line, small parties of men, under 
a non-commissioned officer, were allowed to go back behind 
the reserve line, where a number of tubs had been utilized 
for baths at a partially demolished brewery. 

My turn, with others, came along and about half a dozen set 
off and in due course, halted at the corner of a road to 
await the arrival of the corporal who had been delayed. The 
Brigadier appeared on the scene and the following dialogue 
took place . . 

Brigadier - 

"Well, you men, and what are you doing?" 
Answer - 

"We have received permission to go back for a bath, Sir, and 
are awaiting the corporal". 

Brigadier - 

"Baths, eh. jolly good idea". "Tell, whilst we're here, 
let's have a rifle inspection" . 

(general, consternation amongst us, for we had just left the 
trenches which were deep in mud) . We "port arms" for 
inspection and stood in readiness for the ordeal. The 
Brigadier squinted down the barrel of the first man's rifle 
and the conversation was resumed 

Brigadier - 

"Bit dirty, isn't it?" 
Answer - 

"Yes, Sir" (he passed-to the next) 


Brigadier - 

"You've got a short rifle of the Regular Army pattern; where 
did you get it?" 
Answer - 

"I have just returned from hospital, Sir, and it was issued 
to me. When I left to return to my battalion" . 
Brigadier - 

"Can you do anything with it?" 
Answer - 

"I haven't tried yet, Sir. I only re joined the battalion 
last night". 
Brigadier - 

"Haven't tried it yet?". "My boy, if I had a new rifle, I'd 
go straight up to the front trench and fire some rounds to 
see how I got on". 

(he passed to. the next man) 
Brigadier - 

"This is a dirty one, is'nt it?". "Where did you say you 
were going?" 
Answer - 

"Back to get a hot bath, Sir". 
(on to next man) 
Brigadier - 

"Just move the bolt backwards and forwards". 
(this was done and a rasping noise was the result) 
Brigadier - 

"Bit rusty, isn't it?. You say that you are going back for 
hot baths; well, my boys, if I were you, I should get into 
some hot water and have a good wash and, if you take my tip, 
you'll take your rifles in with you and give them a good 
soaping as well" 

The General was quite a dear old man and very human. 

Fourteen British aeroplanes passed over in formation, on 
a bombing expedition, and all the men in the trench sent 
up a loud cheer, which apparently disturbed the Germans 
and conveyed to them the impression that we were about 
to attack, for they immediately lined their trench and 
opened a heavy fire with rifle machineguns . We kept low 
in the trench and smiled. 

The colonel, on learning of the incident, issued an 
order that we were to again cheer at the same time on 
the following day, and that our artillery would 
immediately plaster the enemy trench with shrapnel 
shells as soon as he manned it and opened fire. 


We did as ordered but the enemy was not to be caught the 
same way twice, so he did not take any notice of our 
cheering and consequently, the artillery swept his 
trench whilst doubtless he was well under cover tucked 
away in his dugouts. 

At dawn, on one occasion we saw a flag on our barbed 
wire entanglements in front of the trench. Apparently 
during the night some enterprising German had crawled 
across and fixed it. The previous day, a draft of new 
officers had arrived and one young fellow who looked 
about nineteen years of age, was most interested in the 
flag and annoyed at the temerity of the enemy in placing 
it there which could only be looked upon as an insult to 
the British Army. 

He stated his determination to go out after dark and 
bring it in. The old campaigners viewed the whole 
business with distrust and strongly advised the officer 
to be very careful. Acting upon advice, he set off after 
dark with a sergeant and one man armed with a ball of 
string with the intention of tying the string to the 
flag, returning to the trench whilst unwinding the ball 
and then hauling in the offending object. When he 
reached his objective however, he unfortunately appeared 
to lose his head and instead of carrying out the 
arrangement, took hold of the flag and dragged it out of 
the ground. An enemy bomb had been attached and it 
exploded and killed the officer and wounded the sergeant 
and man . 

An enemy machinegun which had been trained on the spot, 
also opened fire. 

One afternoon, when the war was behaving itself and 
things were pretty quiet I was sitting in a small 
dugout with my companion, Geordie Adams, and I 
thought it would be rather amusing to pass the time 
by writing a few lines about certain men of the 
platoon. The following rather painful effort ensued - 

About the 5th Seaforths, 
I'm going to write, 

Of platoon No. 8., the boys who can fight. I'm 
not in the slightest a poet I know, But we 're 
not downhearted, as these verses will show. 


Geordie Adams, the wag, must be placed at the top, 
For his jokes and good humour are best of the lot, 
And when there ' s hard work to be done, you must 
know, His funny remarks keep us all on the go. 

Then there ' s old Billy Butler, a good hearted chap, 
A better could never be found on the map, but 
he loses his things, it ' s remarkable quite, 
And a jolly good thing that his head is on 
tight . 

Hatfield, the O.T.C. man of renown, 
(An English chappie from old London Town), 
his weakness well known for an argument heated, 
And a great disapproval of being defeated . 

Of old Billy Steward, theme must be a mention, 
(I think he would like to retire on a pension) . 
He doesn't seem pleased with the way we are treated; 
Perhaps though his views better not be repeated . 

Duncan Thompson, the bomber, I musn't forget, 
(He hasn't done much in the bombing line yet), 
Of his weakness for love yarns, he 'd better take heed 
And not keep on asking for novels to read. 

Now tall Private Humphrey, (nicknamed as "The Spider"), 
Shuns cheap cigarettes, like the brand of "Rough Rider" 
He' s a nut, there 's no doubt, of the very first order 
And gives all the "howwid wuff" chaps the cold shoulder 

Of his bosom pall Luff, I've a few words too say, 
(A very nice fellow in every way), 
But rust on his rifle gave cause for reflection 
And earned for all, extra rifle inspection. 

Now Lance Corporal Narrower, (known always as 
"sandy ") In every lark is sure to be handy 
Such being the case, it 's a pretty sure crook, 
For his bosom chum Mickie you've not far to look. 

Hunter's a comic, there is no evasion, 

He gets in a "mist" on every occasion. 

The items that interest fellows the most, 

Are the jolly big parcels he gets in the post. 


Cracknel and Miller are two fellows fine 

Who love each other with love devine 

But a sad feud exists between the two messes 

For each one better food than the other professes 

Now Couper's the boy who cuts the barbed wire 
(When "out", he sets the whole village on fire) 
And oft in the distance, 'tis a most common thing, 
To hear his deep voice and loud laughter ring. 

A few of the boys I have mentioned here, 

And the rest - well they're all of them of good 

So anxious their bit for old England to do 

To fight for their dear folks (the home slackers too) 

Our battalion is one of the best of the lot 
(Although the others would say we are not), 
Being favoured, it causes them many regrets 
And we're given the name of The Brigadier's Pets' 

We're known by the English battalions as "jocks", 

(The boys who will make the Huns pull up their socks) 

We give them rounds rapid, at times unawares, 

Being nervous , they light the whole front up with flares 

I think that enough of this rubbish I've written 
(With the phrasing, I know, you can never be smitten) 
But it 's rather a joke and it ' s something to do 
So I trust it may prove some amusement to you. 

We were relieved and moved back to our Testing place' at 
Helencourt for a few days. A German aeroplane flew over and 
we expected to be bombed but from behind a cloud, a British 
machine appeared and we witnessed a thrilling fight. 
Suddenly a wing of the enemy plane crumpled up and the 
machine burst into flames and crashed to earth nearby; we 
all cheered heartily. 

October . 

We returned to the line and occupied the reserve trenches at 
the village of Autuille where we originally took over from 
the French. We were detailed, in turn, for fatigue work in 
the front line trench, digging a listening sap. 


A tunnel was dug under the parapet and a trench which 
extended for about fifty feet was made at rightangles to the 
front line trench. During the night it was the duty of two 
sentries to sit at the end of the sap and watch and listen. 
On one occasion, whilst two men were on duty but not on the 
alert, they were surprised by the sudden appearance the head 
of a German over the top and a revolver pointed at them. 

They were told, in a whisper, to surrender and come out of 
the sap and over to the enemy lines. One of the sentries was 
a Glasgow miner who didn't appear to know the meaning of the 
word fear; he grabbed a bomb and, without waiting to pull 
out its safety pin, suddenly hurled it at his enemy and, 
striking him between the eyes, stunned him. The victim was 
dragged into the sap and along the trench to the front line 
and duly transported to the rear as a prisoner. 

In my dugout, in reserve, we converted an old biscuit 
tin (by perforating the sides with a bayonet) into 
quite a good brazier and, with the aid of coke 
thieved from the cooks, made a good fire on which we 
boiled water in our messtins and made cocoa. 
Another draft of men arrived from Scotland and 
battalion was nearly at its full strength again. 

Whilst out on rest again at Henencourt, I was excused the 
usual fatigue work because, during the last period in the 
trenches, I had upset a tin of boiling tea over my leg and 
taken the skin off my shin. I received the Doctors exemption 
from duty. The battalion was engaged upon a route march and 
I was envied my burnt leg by the rest on account of my 
missing the parade. 

That evening we enjoyed an impromptu concert at which the 
Brigadier and other officers attended. A rough platform had 
been erected and I accompanied the items on a piano which 
had been obtained from a large chateau nearby. 

The Brigadier made a speech and handed out the usual A soft 
soap' . In the chateau resided a French Countess and the 
house was used as Headquarters by the Staff 

One of the officers of the battalion was very clever at 
writing up words of a topical nature for songs. 


During a previous inspection by the Colonel, he discovered 
that one of the glass eye pieces of the gas mask (called 
smoke helmet) belonging to a man named Mackay was cracked 
and he drew the Company Commander's attention to the 
seriousness of a man going into a gas attack with a leaky 
helmet which would probably prove fatal to the wearer. The 
following song was written and sung by an officer - 

The army Corps sent out a note, battalion commanders 
to warn, their men, that on any and every pretext 
Or for any excuse in this world or the next, The smoke 
helmet must never be torn. 

And the days rolled placidly by, until at inspect ion 
one morn, When the Colonel discovered that Private Mackay 
Had broken the window that covered his eye, And the 
front of his helmet was torn. 

The CO. for his subaltern sent, who was standing and 
looking forlorn, He said, "Half of your men- are 
improperly dressed And one has a beard reaching down 
to his chest. Whilst another's smoke helmet is 
t orn " . 

From Brigade to Division it went, and General Headquarters 
made mourn, And the Master of Ordnance made an 
indent, And a hundred and twenty smoke helmets were 
sent, For the one that Mackay had torn. 

The setting up of a Divisional Concert Party was considered 
at that tine, so that battalions out on rest could have 
amusement behind the lines. Whilst "resting" we could hear a 
heavy bombardment taking place in the line and imagined some 
poor devils going through it. 

We had a concert each evening and one night following an 
enjoyable show, we had no sooner got to sleep in our barn 
than the alarm went and a scramble took place to get into 
our kit and parade. 

It was, however, another false alarm which had been 
ordered by the General. After he had timed our turn out we 
went back to sleep. 

The latest innovation was a battalion canteen, where 
eatables, cigarettes, etc. could be obtained at reasonable 
prices . 


I heard of the Zeppelin raid and its visit to Guildford 
and most relieved to learn that none of the folks at home 
had suffered. 

We returned to the firing line in Aveluy Wood but nothing of 
special interest occurred. A small light railway ran up to 
the reserve and fatigue parties were detailed from the front 
trench to collect the rations and mails. On one occasion we 
were at the railhead unloading and the enemy suddenly opened 
with shrapnel . 

The ground was deep in mud and we made frantic dives for 
cover and remained there until the shelling ended. I dived 
under the small iron railway truck and lay there. When 
things had quietened down we stood up and I had to laugh; we 
looked such sketches and were plastered from head to foot 
with mud. 

The next time we returned to the line, we occupied trenches 
at Thiepval, where we were about seventy yards from the 
enemy. My company relieved another of the 6th Argylls who 
were most nerve wracked and spoke in whispers. We were 

informed that the sector was a particularly hot one and 
that, throughout the day and night, the enemy fired 
Mininwerfer projectiles into the front trench. These 
missiles were about the size of a dustbin and weighed about 
two hundred pounds, each being filled with high explosive. 

In order that the discharge of the gun might not be heard, 
the enemy fired his machineguns at the same time. The 
missiles were fired into the air to a great height and could 
be seen turning over and over on their way down and when 
they struck the ground with a thud and exploded, the noise 
was terrific and the concussion, enormous. 

The Company of Argylls had had a very bad time and 
suffered a great many casualties. The trench was 
flattened out in parts and had to be vacated until it 
was rebuilt. 

When we took up our position we found the trench and the 
dugouts smashed flat and, on the tree stumps, pieces of 
kilts could be seen fluttering (the sole remains of some of 
the men who had been blown up) . 


Whilst occupying this part we kept extremely quiet so that 
the enemy would not be certain that the trench was actually 
occupied. We had rather a rough time. Periodically we were 
subjected to the missiles but our casualties were lighter 
than those suffered by our predecessors. Once or twice we 
had to dig out men who were buried in their dugouts. 

On Lord Kitcheners birthday, we set up a loud cheer and so 
annoyed the enemy that he plastered our front with trench 
mortar bombs and shells of all sizes. 

The Germans shouted across, in English, each time that 
a salvo fell around us - "What do you think of those?". 

When things had quietened down, we again caused annoyance 
by singing "Rule Britannia" and once more the enemy shelled 
us. At the end, we gave a loud cheer and our artillery was 
telephoned to reply. 

They plastered the German trench with large shells and each 
time a salvo went over, the men shouted out "What do you 
think of those, Fritz?" We heard a whistle blown in the 
enemy line, which was the call for stretcher-bearers, and 
knew that some of our shells had been effective. 

At dawn one morning, we were amazed to see a non 
commissioned officer of the enemy pacing the distance 
between the British and German saps. One of our sentries 
fired and the offender fell. Later, a German shouted 
across "What have you done, with our Sergeant major?" . 

The questioner was promptly informed "He's na plus, finis' . 
After many uncomplimentary remarks being exchanged, the 
enemy artillery opened on us and the argument terminated. In 
view of the action of the sergeant major who might have been 
planning a bombing raid, we kept a sharp look out that night 
but nothing happened. 

A bombing raid on the enemy trench was arranged and we duly 
set off with pockets filled with bombs. I also carried a 
large bag of bandages. 

The party crept across no man's land and lay down close to 
the German barbed wire entanglements. Men with wire cutters 
silently cut a small path to enable us to pass through and, 
at a given signal, the trench was rushed and bombs were 
thrown . 


We jumped into the trench and proceeded along it, throwing 
bombs into the dugouts. We returned to our trench without 
losing a man. 

■"Resting' once more, we were engaged on the usual fatigue 
work. The first day we were inspected by the Major. This 
took place in the pouring rain and when it was over we had 
to dry our things. We were transported, in motor lorries, 
to a neighbouring village and engaged upon road mending. 
Batteries of our guns in position near the side of the road, 
opened fire over our heads. 

Back in the front line again, we returned to Thiepval and 
spent another period under the fire of the Mininwerfer 
missiles, suffering several casualties. Several men were bit 
by enemy snipers. The communication trenches were deep in 
mud and my dugout leaked water everywhere. When we left the 
line we were covered in mud and looked sorry sights and it 
was nice to get back for a few days rest and have a clean 
up. We had several concerts and at one, the following 
amusing song was sung. 

The Seaforths Lament. 

We are but little Seaforths meek, 
We earn but seven bob a week; 
the more we do, the more we may, 
It makes no difference to our pay. 

We dig by day, we dig by night, 

Of pick and spade we hate the sight, 

But when our luck we dare to curse, 

We're told that things will get much worse, 

There is one thing we do believe 
That we're entitled to some, leave. 
It's strange that we should be so nursed, 
We'll get our old age pensions first. 

Our hours per day are twenty four, 
We thank the Lord there are no more, 
For if there were, we certainly 
Would work another two or three. 


When from the trenches we proceed 
We are inspected at great speed 
And to the Major's great disgust, 
He cannot find a speck of rust . 

Obedience is our one watch word 
And not a murmour will be heard. 
If ordered to the charge, we trust, 
You will not see our heels for dust. 

(sung to the hymn tune - "We are but little Children Weak". 

Once more we, returned to the trenches at Thiepval and 
endured another spell of usual routine. We experienced 
various kinds of weather and our week's occupation ended 
with snow that melted and ran in rivers. 

At dawn one morning, we had a party of men working out in 
front of the trench repairing the barbed wire entanglements 
An enemy machinegun opened and killed and wounded several. 

I was kept busy bandaging and carrying the wounded down a 
communication trench which as knee deep in liquid mud. The 
winter seemed to be settling in and it was presumed that no 
offensive could attempted until the Spring. 

An unpleasant incident occurred whilst we were occupying 
this sector. A man who had been with us since we had landed 
in France, shot and killed himself in the dugout. The 
experiences and conditions had been too much for him and 
had preyed upon his mind. 

A long period in the front line completed, we were relieved 
and marched to reserve for six days. I was ordered to 
report to the Adjutant, for my papers had come from England 
regarding the granting to me of a commission in the 
Hampshire Regiment. 

These papers had to be signed by the Adjutant and then 
forwarded to the Brigadier for signature. The Adjutant was 
a sneering individual and liked by nobody and our 
conversation was similar to the following - 

Adjutant - 

"And so you want a commission do you?" 
Answer - 
"Yes, Sir". 


Adjudant - 

"I suppose you think you are just the 
right sort of person to hold one". 
Answer - 

"Yes, Sir". 
Adjudant - 

"Of course, you feel fully capable of 
leading a body of men in an attack" . 
Answer - 

"Yes, Sir". 
Adjudant - 

"Alright , I'll sign your papers but you 
are a damned fool; in two or three days 
after you reach France again, you'll 
be dead". 

I had to say "yes" in answer to his questions, otherwise he 
would not have signed my papers but his sarcasm made me want 
to hit out. I had now to wait for a further interview, by 
appointment, with the Brigadier. 

For the last time in France, I returned to the trenches at 
Thiepval and, after two weeks in the front line, my company 
dropped back into the reserve trench which was situated 
about fifty yards in rear. The Mininwerfer projectiles came 
right over the front trench on to the light dugouts we were 
occupying and again casualties mounted up. 

I was ordered one evening to proceed on foot, with another 
man named Cameron, back to headquarters some miles behind 
the lines to be interviewed by the Brigadier concerning the 
commissions we were hoping to be granted. I was duly ushered 
before this awe inspiring person to be interrogated, and the 
following conversation then took place. 

Brigadier - 

"I have before me, for signature, your paper regarding the 
granting to you of a commission in the Hampshire 
Regiment. I see that your name is Racine; are you, by any 
chance, a descendant of the celebrated French dramatist of 
that name?". 
Answer - 

"Yes, Sir; I have the family tree at my home". 
Brigadier - 

"That is most interesting; I am a great lover of his works and 
have read them all". 


Whereupon he entertained me with a long description of 
works and finally ended by saying, "Well, my boy, I'll be 
pleased to sign your papers and wish you the best of luck. 
When you join this English battalion, be sure to show them 
just how we have trained you in a Scottish Regiment. I was 
greatly relieved to find that his interest in my name had 
entirely driven from his mind the thoughts of questioning me 
on map reading and other matters. 

Several fellows had been interrogated and, as their knowledge 
had not been great, they had been returned to their battalion 
to read up the subjects in preperation for a further 
interview. I wandered back to my company in the trenches and 
that it was only a matter of time before I would be 
recalled to England to take up my commission. Now I had got 
so far in the matter, I experienced more nervousness than I 
had before known. 

I had the fear of possibly being hit whilst knowing that 
any day might see me on the way home. There were three of 
us awaiting orders to proceed to England and we weathered 
the period until the battalion was relieved, six days 
later, with the exception of one man. He was sniped whilst 
on sentry duty at the head of a sap, the very day that the 
battalion was relieved. I realised the poor fellow's 
misfortune, for we were to have left the trenches in a few 
hours. I had the task of carrying him for burial and my 
nervousness increased. 

We were duly relieved and marched back to the village of 
Bouzincourt and placed under canvas. Snow covered the 
ground and we found it rather cold. 

That evening, two or three of the men went to the 
estaminet for some drinks but found a large card in the 
window bearing the words "Reserved for Royal Engineers". 
This roused the anger of the men, who forced their way 
inside and a fight with some of the Royal Engineers who 
resented the intrusion took place. An officer was called 
and two of our men were arrested and lodged in the 
guardroom. The remainder rushed off to the barn where we 
quartered and told us of the incident. 

All the men were furious to think that after weeks in the 
front line, they should be debarred from entering the 
estaminet by a handful of Engineers. About forty of us 
set off at a run for the guardroom. 


We stopped a short distance from the sentry and asked to 
see the officer. He came out and we requested the release 
of the two prisoners but he refused. We threatened to 
rush the guardroom and the sentry presented his rifle at 
us but, having just left the firing line where bullets 
were numerous the men did not worry. The party was 
getting dangerous and ultimately the officer decided to 
take the line of least resistance, so freed the prisoners 
on condition that they immediately returned to their 
billet . 

After this incident, the card was removed from the 
estaminet window and the men granted admittance. 

On Christmas Day, two or three of as clubbed together and, 
after a certain amount of trouble, secured a goose which we 
had roasted. The Colonel's wife had sent out a current loaf 
for each man and we also received a half of a Christmas 
pudding each which had been provided by some fund. A bottle 
of French wine completed a nice dinner. On Boxing Day we had 
a church parade in the morning and a route march in the 
afternoon. A new order warned us to on no account mention 
when we occupied or left the trenches. In comparative 
safety, we listened to the guns booming forth and 
sympathised with the men who had taken our place in the 
trenches . 

After two or three days in this village, we were marched back 
through Senlis to another village where the battalion was to 
remain for a time whilst being refitted. 

January 1916 

I received orders to proceed to England with a new friend 
named Cameron who was also waiting to return and take up a 
commission in the Hampshire Regiment. We visited all our 
friends in their respective barns to say goodbye and were 
wished the best of luck. I shook hands with my Guildford 
friend, Ernest Gyatt, who had enlisted with me. It was the 
last time that I saw him, for he was killed soon 
afterwards . 

At dawn, the following morning, we set off on an army 
ammunition wagon to the railway station at Mericourt, a 
number of miles away. We entrained for Havre, duly boarded a 
boat at that port and reached Southampton the next morning. 


I had handed in my rifle and equipment before leaving the 
battalion and such odds and ends as souvenirs etc. I carried 
over my shoulder in a sandbag. 

I was in a delapidated condition (half of my shirt was 
missing) and longed for a hot bath. I walked up to my 
Aunt's house in Cavendish Grove, Southampton, and was 
welcomed with opened arms. A hot bath was immediately 
prepared and I lay and soaked and enjoyed myself; my part 
shirt had been removed and consigned to the dustbin and 
another, belonging to my cousin, placed my disposal. 

My feelings were extraordinary, as I sat down to 
tea in a comfortable drawing room, after months of danger 
amid mud and filth. The extreme quietness seemed uncanny 
and I felt as if I had been transported into another world. 

I longed to see my Parents, so I entrained for 
Guildford. Whilst stopped at one station (my head was 
out of the carriage window and I was drinking in old 
familiar scenes) , some ladies further up the train 
beckoned me into their compartment. The condition 
of my uniform made it apparent that I had just crossed 
from France. 

I was subjected to numerous questions 

regarding life in the trenches, and I rather regretted 
having accepted their invitation to join them. 

In due course I reached home and experienced most wonderful 
feeling of contentment on being with my Parents again. I was 
grateful that I had come through without a scratch, when so 
many of my friends had been killed. 

After a good night's sleep, in a comfortable bed, I rose, 
breakfasted and proceeded to London to report at the War 
Office. I was granted two weeks leave in which to obtain my 
new uniform, and much I made of that time in visiting my 
many friends and enjoying myself before once again coming 
under army discipline. 


Commission training with the 
Hampshire Regiment 
In England 



January 1916. 

I met my friend Cameron at Waterloo and we travelled to 
Bournemouth together and joined, as 2nd Lieutenants, 
the 2/5th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. This 
was a draft finding unit for the battalions of the 
Regiment which were either stationed in India or were 
on active service in France and Mesopotamia. 

After we had reported to the Adjutant, we were billeted 
in a large house at 4, Vale Road, Boscombe, occupied by 
the Misses Andrews, three maiden ladies. They made us 
thoroughly at home. 

During the following week or two, we drilled, 
skirmished, route marched, etc. Each day a fresh batch 
of raw recruits arrived to be licked into shape. We 
soon settled down with our brother officers and were 
treated with a certain amount of respect. 
We were the only ones who had seen active service. 
Bournemouth we liked immensely and many jolly times 
were spent in the town. The Westover was a large roller 
skating rink and we often met there and indulged in 
exercise . 

February . 

Cameron and I were detailed to proceed to Hertford 
Barracks for a course of instruction to last about a 
month. After reporting to the Adjutant, we were 
allotted an empty room in a house in the barrack 
square. We erected our camp beds and washstands and 
settled ourselves down. An orderly was detailed to each 
four officers and he was responsible for the cleanlines 
of their kitt, etc. 

It was an officers' course of instruction and the 
instructors were Regular officers from the Guards. They 
were holy terrors, (which was putting it mildly) , and 
viewed with contempt the officers they supervised, 
being ready at every opportunity to wrech their sarcasm 
upon us. The fact was constantly impressed upon us that 
we could never hope to become capable army officers as 
we were only civilians in disguise and not professional 
soldiers as they were. 


For drill purposes, we were placed in the care of a 
sergeant-major of the Coldstream Guards, who, although 
polite and differential to the officers under instruction, 
interspersed his orders with chatty little remarks such as - 
"Lift up your feet, Gentlemen; this is not a dancing class", 
when we were marking time. 

We rose at 6 a.m., paraded at 7 a.m, and were put through 
our paces. The restrictions were unbelievable and the 
decided efforts to discipline us, very severe. We were kept 
at work throughout the whole day and, at night we attended 
lectures and had notes to write up. The daily routine was as 
follows - 

7a.m. - parade and drill until breakfast time. 

9.30a.m. - lectures 

lp.m. - lunch 

2.30p.m. - more lectures 

5p.m. - tea 

5.30p.m. - more lectures 

7 p.m. - dinner 

8 p. m. - lectures again 

and then the writing up of notes until nearly midnight. 

The course had the reputation of being one of the hardest in 
England and I well believed it. The Colonel stated that we 
had three years work to master in four weeks. 

Some of the officers who took the previous course, fainted 
when on parade, for night operations sometimes lasted until 
2 a.m. and notes then had to be written up. In consequence 
of the hard work we had scarcely any free time for leisure 
but, one Saturday afternoon, I decided to have a change and 
so explored the town. 

Hertford seemed to have been a target for the Zeppelins, 
bombs had been dropped on the town and many buildings had 
suffered but were now boarded up; some of the houses had 
been burned to the ground. 

One night the Zepps . passed over but did not drop ay bombs; 
all the inhabitants seemed very nervous and if a glimmer of 
light appeared from behind a blind of a house, action was 
immediately taken to rectify the matter and at night the 
town was in complete darkness. 


Our instruction in attack was completed and that of defence 
commenced. We were taken into ploughed fields and lectured 
in the pouring rain. In turn, officers assumed command of 
the remainder, under the eagle eye of the Major, and issued 
orders which had to be executed. 

We each possessed maps of the district by which we worked. 
After a lecture on billeting, we were marched to a village a 
few miles distant, to try our hand at it. 

There were lectures on Military Law and many other 
subjects, so that we had a hazy idea of everything and 
knew nothing thoroughly. We each had a pile of 
text books but no tine in which to digest their content 
properly . 

We were informed that several officers engaged upon the 
previous courses had failed in the final examination and 
been returned to their battalions with adverse reports. 

Extra duties were frequently given for the most trivial 
offences; the following was an example. Whilst making 
an attack, one officer, in order to avoid having to 
throw himself down in a puddle of water, moved out of 
his line of advance and selected a dry spot. The Major 
noticed the manoeuvre, with the result that the officer 
in question was given extra duty. 

Another officer, wearing a long service ribbon, ordered 
his section to "cease fire" at the wrong moment. He too 
was given extra duty. It will be realised that the Major 
was loved by all. Extra duty meant a lecture or other work 
after the rest had finished. 

On a route march during a previous course, one officer, 
whilst marching at ease, sang a song which may have been 
applicable to the Major. The Major evidently thought that 
the cap fitted, for he took the whole parade out for a 
long night attack and ordered an early parade the 
following morning. 

Most of the officers were angry at the severity of the 
discipline and muttered threats of ragging certain of the 
autocrats . 


The last lecture of the day usually commenced at 9 p.m. an 
after that we had pages and pages of notes to write up 
regarding the whole day's work. This kept us busy until 
midnight or the early hours of the morning. 

We finished at midday on Saturday, unless unfortunate 
enough to have earned "extra duty", and were allowed time 
off until early parade Monday morning. 

I decided to go to Bedford and visit my old billet. The 
good folk were delighted to see me and I talked with 
several of the occupants of the other billets. 
They were anxious to hear of the fate of the Seaforths who 
had been quartered with them before going to France. Late 
on Sunday evening, I returned to the barracks and resumed. 
After the final lectures on Administration and 
Organization, etc., we entered, with considerable 
misgiving, for the numerous examinations. In due course a 
list of those who had passed, with the number of marks 
allotted, was posted on the board. Much to my surprise I 
was placed fairly high, although heaven alone knows how it 
was achieved. Quite a number of officers failed to secure 
the minimum number of qualifying marks and were returned 
to their battalions with adverse reports. 


I rejoined the Regiment at Bournemouth for a week or 
two and was then detailed to attend another use of 
instruction in musketry and the Lewis gun at Hayling 
Island. I was billeted in a large house named A The 
Towers' which was situated right on the sea front. 
In the grounds were tennis courts and I had some 
splendid games in the evenings. At the bottom of the 
garden a summerhouse had been erected in which was a 
rustic table also chairs. This commanded a clear view 
out to sea and I often sat there in the evenings and 
wrote up my notes . 

This course lasted for four weeks and although we had to 
cram and write up copious notes, I hed a far more 
comfortable time than I experienced during the Hertford 
course . 

I was in possession of a motor cycle and spent 
the weekends at Southampton. 


The course duly ended and, after the results of the 
examinations had been posted, I returned to Bournemouth and 
joined the battalion. 

Recruits continued to arrive and were gradually 
knocked into shape by the sergeants. We were taken 
for long route marches and participated in field 
days, trench digging, etc., which continued for a few 
weeks . 

The battalion then received orders to proceed to Romsey 
where we were placed under canvas; battalions of the 
Wilts, Dorsets, etc. were with us. 

Training was resumed and drafts made efficient for 
despatch to the battalions on service. I had to attend 
an examination in drill and general field work and 
managed to pass the tests. 

Next I was sent to Salisbury Plain for musketry 
and, after firing my course and passing out as a "first 
class shot", was kept at the camp as an officer in charge of 
butts. For the next week or two I was responsible for the 
registering of the targets and the return of the firing 
tests carried out by the men from the various Battalions. 

In due course I returned to Romsey and decided to take up 
signalling. This included the morse code, operated by 
electric buzzers, flags, lamps, heliographs etc. Also the 
laying of field telephones. After dark we sent and received 
messages in morse by lamp. 

Each Sunday the battalion attended Church parade and those 
of Church of England denomination held their services in 
Romsey Abbey. 

I was detailed as officer in charge of the small body of 
nonconformists and marched my party independently to their 
chapel . 

Many evenings and weekends I spent in Southampton. I had 
disposed of my motor cycle (expecting to be detailed at any 
moment to be sent overseas) and had acquired an ordinary 
push cycle. Several times, at night, I returned to Romsey 
after an enjoyable time, being compelled to ride on the rim 
of the wheel owing to punctures. 


During these rides I was dismount and listgen to the 
nightingales singing in the trees. 

I returned to camp on one occasion, and saw the searchlights 
being operated in the Portsmouth area. It transpired that a 
Zeppelin had visited the town and dropped bombs but no 
serious damage was done. 

The training proceeded day by day and drafts were 
periodically sent overseas. I awaited my movement orders. 

On returning to camp one evening I found a note from 
Adjudant lying on my camp bed. It informed me that I had 
been detailed to proceed somewhere east. I was granted a few 
days leave, in which time to procure tropical kit, so I 
returned to my home and spent a pleasant holiday. 

I returned to Romsey and after a short period, received 
orders to leave. I was placed in charge of a draft 
consisting of two officers and two hundred men. 


Several kit inspections followed and, after the transport 
had been loaded, we marched in the rain and headed by the 
band to Romsey station. We entrained for Devonport . The 
inhabitants gave us a good send off. We travelled throughout 
the night, stopping at Exeter at 4am where the Mayoress and 
friends dispensed tea, cakes and cigarettes to the men. We 
reached Devonport at 6.30am and embarked on the S.S. 
'Orontes' (Orient Line) . 

I had several hundred pounds in cash which had been handed 
to me by the Adjudant before leaving with which to pay the 
men. I was thankful to have it safely placed in the safe in 
the pursers office. 

The two officers in the draft were exceedingly nice fellows. 
One was Cameron who came with me to the battalion from 
France. The other was named Vize (a musical comedy actor) . 
Cameron and I shared a comfortable cabin together. We found 
out that our ultimate destination was to be India, but that 
owing to the submarine menace, the route would follow the 
coastline the whole way until we reached South Africa and 
not via the Suez canal. 


Voyage to South Africa 
and service in South Africa. 


We experienced a bad storm whilst crossing the Bay of 
Biscay and I was very seasick and wished that the boat 
would go to the bottom. 

The transport that left Devonport previous to ours was 
torpedoed . 

During the many days that followed, we kept ourselves amused 
by either playing deck games such as tennis, cricket, 
quoits, etc. or reading books. There was a good library 
aboard and I read the books by W.W.Jacobs which I found to 
be most amusing. 

Each morning the troops were paraded for physical drill and 
roll call. During the nights, the portholes of the ship, 
which had all been blackened, were kept closed so that no 
light could betray us to an enemy submarine; we had each 
been issued with a lifebelt, which had to be constantly in 
our possession although not actually worn. The officers 
and men were allotted boat, stations and periodically, a 
bell was sounded and the ship's siren blown to signal the 
alarm; the men had to at once don their lifebelts and parade 
at their respective boat stations on deck. Sometimes the 
alarm went during the night and we had to hurriedly dress, 
don lifebelts, and scramble up on to deck; we never knew 
when an enemy submarine might put in an appearance, so when 
the alarm I sounded, a general rush took place. 

The food was excellent and we sat down to meals in a 
comfortable dining room. Breakfast was served at 8.30 am, 
beef tea taken on deck at 11.30 am., lunch at 1 pm, tea at 4 
p.m. , and dinner at 7 p.m. 

Being out of sight of land, with nothing but a huge expanse 
of water to gaze at day after day, it became a little 
monotonous but it was certainly much preferred to the 
trenches of France. 

On Sunday mornings, a short service was held in the well of 
the ship. The remainder of the day was spent in games etc. 

We had proceeded for some two thousand miles before we saw 
the first tramp steamer going in the opposite direction; 
this was quite an item of interest. 


Some afternoons, sports were arranged for the men and races 
held on deck; the officers subscribed money for prizes. A 
sweepstake, on the mileage travelled by the boat, was held 
each day; the distance was generally in the neighbourhood of 
three hundred miles. 

On the eve of crossing the line, the following notice 
appeared on the ship's board - 

H. M. T. "Orontes". 

- King of ye High Seas - 

Hearing ye good Ship "Orontes" carrieth many strangers 
through my Dominions, know ye that I, on the third day of 
November, at three in the afternoon, with my Wife 
Aphrodite and Court, my Doctor and Barber, will board the 
aforesaid ship to perform ye ancient Rites of Enrolment of 
these strangers to ye Ancient Order of Salts - Drowning 
such as, in the opinion of my Court, are not fit for such 
Honour . 

Given under my hand and seal this second day of November, in 
the year of our lord, one thousand, nine hundred and 
sixteen . 

The following day at the time stated, Neptune appeared (with 
his Court), dressed in the appropriate costumes. He was 
pulled round the deck in an improvised chariot, preceeded by 
a "band" consisting of a cornet and a triangle. A large sail 
had been prepared in the shape of a bath (in the well of the 
ship) , and a platform was erected, upon which Neptune and 
his Court gathered; the water in the bath was about three 
feet deep. 

The names of the several officers, who had to undergo the 
initiation, had been posted on the notice board and the men, 
numbering some hundreds, were grouped around to witness the 
fun of their officers being ducked. The officers, each in 
turn, were presented to Neptune and he handed them on to the 
Barber (who possessed a bucket of white lather and an 
enormous razor about three feet long) and he sat each victim 
in a chair, lathered the whole of his face with the aid of a 
whitewash brush, and proceeded to shave him; the doctor then 
administered mustard pills. 


The victim, who was fully dressed in drill uniform, was then 
grabbed and thrown head over heels into the bath, where some 
of Neptune's attendants were going to receive him, and 
ducked three times; even the ships officers, in their nicely 
starched drill uniforms, were subjected to the ceremony. Of 
course, the men were delighted and cheered madly. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the fun, which I witnessed from the top 
deck - being under the impression that I was safe at that 
distance. Apparently, however, some of my men drew Neptune's 
attention to me, for in a short time I was seized by several 
of the attendants and carried down companion ways and along 
corridors, struggling madly, until finally deposited on the 
platfc before Neptune. I was fully dressed in my uniform 
but shaved, doctored and thrown into the bath, much to the 
keen enjoyment of the men of my draft. Following my 
initiation, I was presented with a printed certificate which 
stated as follows - 

His Most Watery Majest; 

H«rcby grants .. 

the Freedom /iftXe Seas, he having been duly shorn, 
shaved., and qipped, in accordance witli ye Ancier; 
Rite's <>f ' Ye -Igohle Order of Salts. 

'• for NeptunA Rex 

11. M. J*. Qrontes, 

*! J 1. I ft. 

\ Secretary^ 

In the evening, a concert was given and I had to contribute 
three or four songs . 

On Guy Fawkes Day, the stokers made an effigy of the Kaiser 
and carried it round the deck; it was then strung up at the 
yard arm and the officers peppered it with bullets from 
their revolvers. 

Once a week I held a parade of the men and paid them. The 
money in my care gradually dimished. 


On one of these occasions, when I was sitting at the table 
surrounded by money, the alarm sounded and everybody dashed 
on to deck wondering whether it was a genuine one. I stayed 
and gathered up the money, for I had no wish to return and 
find it depleted, should the alarm prove to be false. 

One of any occupations was the censoring of the mens 
letters, which at times proved to be most amusing; one wrote 
that we had encountered enemy submarines. Some of the 
experiences depicted by the men were weird and wonderful. 
The further we progressed on our voyage, the warmer it 
became and we assumed our uniforms of drill and kept the 
electric fans in our cabins going the whole time. 

At dawn, after three weeks at sea, we sailed into Table Bay 
and had our first sight of land; Table Mountain presented a 
wonderful appearance, being outlined against a most glorious 
sunrise. As we proceeded across the bay, we were gradually 
able to discern houses at the foot of the mountain and, 
later, to see the town itself; we berthed at about 7 a.m. 
and breakfasted on board. 

The troops were then inspected and taken ashore at Cape 
Town, dismissed, and instructed to parade again on the quay 
at 3 p.m., thus giving them six hours ashore whilst the boat 

My brother officers and I walked into the town and, after 
exploring Cecil Rhodes Gardens and other places of interest, 
chartered a taxi and drove to the fashionable place named 
Miuizenburg, about thirty miles distant; we 

ran into an army waggon en route but only slightly damaged 
the car. We passed several Kaffir kraals and duly reached 
our destination; an hour and a half soon passed in this 
delightful place, which was crowded with people. The weather 
was perfect and resembled a hot day in Summer in England; 
the sky was without a cloud. A lovely bay with mountains 
surrounding it, provided excellent surf riding for the many 
bathers and, after partaking of a tea of strawberries and 
cream, we returned to Cape Town and lunched in a cafe. Later 
we visited the many splendid shops and made sundry 
purchases. It seemed strange to mix with so many black 
people . 


Gardiner street, Durban 

West street, Durban 

We returned to the quay, boarded the boat and steamed 
away about 4.30 p.m. A number of people had assembled 
and they gave us a cheer as we left. 


We passed fairly close to the coast and left the Cape of 
Good Hope behind us. 

The daily routine was resumed, with games etc., and we 
witnessed several forest fires which were taking place on 
the main land. 

We passed Port Elisabeth and New London and ultimately 
reached Durban at about 3 a.m. one day. 

The previous evening, we had a final dinner on board and 
many healths were toasted. 

We paraded and marched to a rest camp on the sea front and 
were placed under canvas. It took the whole of the morning 
to get my draft of two hundred men settled and I afterwards 
strolled into the town for lunch. Durban was a splendid 
place and its buildings magnificent. Each morning we bathed 
in the enclosure provided on the beach which was surrounded 
by a barred iron grill about eight feet high; the bay was 
infested with sharks and precaution was necessary. 

Opposite, on the other side of the bay, was a point 
called The Bluff, with a lighthouse at the top. There 
was a whaling station on the point and whales could be 
seen drawn up on the slipways; daily we could see the 
whalers in the bay and hear the noise of discharge of 
the harpoon guns. 

It was refreshing to see all the shops lit up and the 
promenade festooned with coloured electric lamps, after 
the darkness of England. There were two theatres and 
several cinemas, and I could have enjoyed a freer time 
had I been unattached to the camp, as were some 
officers; having the responsibility of the draft, there 
was always some duty to be attended to, such as the 
daily signing of passes for the men to go into the town, 
paying them, etc. 

When we left England, I had only been supplied with 
sufficient money to pay the men during the shorter route 
to South Africa, via the Suez Canal, and as we come all 
the way round the coast, I had a very small balance in 
hand. Soon as the men found themselves in Durban, they at 
once applied for money to spend and I had to seek out the 
Base Paymaster and requisition for cash, which was handed 
to me in Kruger money. 


Certain calculations had then to be entered into when 
paying the men, for some received this money whilst 
others, English currency. I wondered what would happen 
when we arrived in India with a balance of Kruger money 
in hand for this money would not be accepted either on 
board or in India. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the hot climate and spent happy 
days playing tennis and exploring. The inhabitants were 
exceedingly hospitable and many men were invited to the 
houses and entertained; I became very friendly with a 
lady and her daughter and spent some pleasant evenings at 
their residence. 

Two evenings after we had arrived, an officer and 
I went to the "Criterion Theatre", where a revue called 
"The Million Dollar Girl" was being performed. At the 
interval, he and I sent round our cards on which the 
following was written - "Would the ladies please take 
pity upon two lonely officers who were miles away from 
home, and would be grateful for their company to supper". 

At the end of the performance, two lady members of the 
cast joined us at a neighbouring hotel for supper. 

During our stay in Durban, we became acquainted with the 
members of the Company and, each morning, bathed with 
them . 

In the afternoons, we would sometimes hire a motor 
boat take the girls across to The Bluff for tea, returning 
in time for their appearance at the theatre in the evening. 
Several evenings, after their performance, we adjourned to a 
hotel where we danced the best part of the night; I was in 
demand and spent most of the time at the piano playing dance 
mu s i c . 

On several occasions, we dined at the Royal Hotel; this 
hotel was accepted as being the one of Durban. 

The buildings of the town were particularly attractive, 
especially that of the Post Office and the Town Hall, which 
were magnificent structures; the Zoological Gardens were 
most interesting. Electric tramcars ran to most parts and, 
in the evenings, crowds of theatre goers were seen in their 
cool silk clothes. 


After a week or so in glorious surroundings, we marched to 
the docks and embarked aboard the s . s . "Aregon" , one of the 
boats of the Royal Mail Line. By lunch time all the men were 
quartered and a number of civilians, who gathered to see 
them off, amused themselves by throwing up oranges to the 
troops who were leaning over deck rail. 

Information was received that the boat would not sail until 
midnight at the earliest, and officers only were granted 
permission to go ashore until 10 p.m. 

The men felt disappointed at being refused leave and amused 
themselves, each time an officer went down the gangway, by 
chanting in unison - "We don't want to go ashore; we 
wouldn't if we had the chance". 


Voyage from South Africa 
and service in India 


In due course the "Aregon" left and we resumed the daily 
routine, playing games on deck, etc. The days slipped 
along and, in crossing the Indian Ocean, less restriction 
was enforced regarding the showing of lights from 
portholes etc., owing to the submarine menance being 
discounted . 

December . 

At night, we witnessed the most glorious sunsets imaginable, 
such as are only seen in the East . The sun appeared to 
disappear behind the horizon like a ball of fire and rays of 
light reflected all the most wonderful colours. To add to 
the charm, the sea had scarcely a ripple upon it and schools 
of porpoises and flying fish could be seen. 

It was very hot and I wore a white shirt with open neck, 
sleeves rolled, white drill trousers and a pith helmet; the 
perspiration ran from me in streams and I disliked wearing a 
stiff collar when dressed for dinner. 

One evening, whilst sitting at dinner, I saw the steward 
standing close to the Captains table; our eyes met and we 
recognised one another. I had met him many years before at 
Southampton and knew his Father, a captain of a Royal Mail 
boat, and his brothers; after dinner, we renewed 
acquaintance and many evenings I visited him in his cabin 
and chatted. 

On the eve of our arrival in India, I was standing on deck 
when one of the ship's officers turned to me said - 

"sniff"; I did so. 

"Smell anything", he asked. 

"Yes". I replied; "A kind of musty smell". 

"That's India" he said; "We can always smell it some hours 
before sighted and we shall be there soon" . 

Early in the morning, we reached Bombay and after 
breakfast, I went ashore and, after a search, managed to 
locate the Paymaster and requisitioned more money with 
which to pay the men; this time I received Indian 
currency, rupees, etc. 

On my return to the boat, I found an Officer from the 
Hampshire Battalion waiting to conduct us to 
Secunderabad, our new station. 


I paraded the men and we entrained, travelling for two 
days and nights, breaking our journey at Poona, Wadi, 
etc. for meals. We ultimately reached our destination. 
The battalion band was awaiting us and we marched to 
Gough Barracks. 

The men were handed over to the sergeant-major and my 
brother officers. Cameron, Vize, and I were duly 
allotted quarters; we each had were kept moving by 
natives, to cause a current of air to pass through the 
rooms . 

Parades commenced at 6.30 a.m., physical drill until 
8 a.m., and drill etc. from 9 a.m. until 11.30 a.m. The 
men were then finished for the day, unless detailed for 
guard in the evening, but the officers had to attend the 
orderly Room at 12.15 p.m. for a few minutes each day; 
Thursday was a holiday and no parades were held. 

We had lunch at 1 p.m. and at all meals ray butler stood 
behind my chair and attended to my needs. Each afternoon 
we lay on our beds, under mosquito nets, and endeavoured 
to sleep whilst perspiring profusely. At 4 p.m. tea and 
biscuits were brought to us and as by then the temperature 
had become more bearable, we often played tennis on the 
hard courts until the bugle sounded the call to dress. 

We then returned to our bungalows, where hot baths were 
ready and mess kits, consisting of starched white drill 
cut-away short coats and tight trousers which fastened 
with straps under patent leather Wellington boots, a red 
cummerbund and a white-shirt with stiff winged collar and 
a black dress bow were laid out in readiness to be placed 
upon us by our butlers. 

As soon as the bugle sounded the officers call to mess, we 
left our bungalows, preceeded by the butlers who carried 
lighted hurrican lamps and kept a look out lest we should 
step on snakes. 

Etiquette was strictly observed and the officers gathered 
in the ante-room sipping appetisers, awaiting the arrival 
of the Colonel. The Mess President would then, when 
informed by the Mess Sergeant, approach the Colonel and 
address him with the words "Dinner is served, Sir" . 


The Colonel would then proceed to the dining room, 
followed by the rest of the officers in their order of 
seniority, who stood by their chairs and waited for the 
Colonel to be seated before following his example; the 
meal then proceeded. 

The Mess President sat at one end of the table and the 
Orderly Officer the other. Following dessert the wine would 
be passed round and glasses charged, whereupon the Mess 
President would rise and address the Orderly Officer in the 
following words - "Mr Vice, The King"; he, in turn, would 
rise and say, "Gentlemen, The King" . All officers would then 
rise to their feet and, with glasses charged and raised, 
toast the King. On guest nights, the table was prettily 
decorated with festoons of flowers and the regimental silver 
plate utilized. 

The battalion band played on the lawn throughout dinner 
And, during the toast to the King, the National Anthem 
was played. The native butlers, in their long white 
drill coats and trousers with turbans and regimental 
cummerbunds added to the picturesqueness of the scene. 

Nobody was permitted to smoke until the Colonel had lit up, 
or allowed to leave the table until he had risen or special 
permission had been granted. The only officer not in mess 
kit was the Orderly Officer; he had other regimental duties 
to perform after dinner. The disciplin and etiquette were 
most strictly observed and on one occasion, a junior 
officer, who was talking to a neighbour, inadvertantly 
rested his elbow on the table which caused the Colonel to 
remark.- "Mr, as you are apparently tired, I think you had 
better withdraw during dinner" . 

After dinner, many of the officers adjourned to the card or 
billiard rooms. Dinner was looked upon as a parade and 
officers had to obtain special permission to absent 
themselves; punctuality was insisted upon and woe betide a 
late arrival; he would be subjected to a most scathing 
lecture by the Colonel. 

On Sundays, supper was served, instead of dinner, and 
civilian evening dress was worn instead of mess kit. 

As soon as daily parades were over, officers were allowed 
to change into civilian clothes; in the mornings I went 
horse riding. 


Life in India was one of luxuary and native servants were 
engaged to perform even the smallest services. For example, 
if I sat in my bungalow and wanted an article which was 
lying at the other side of the room, or a cigarette 
lighted, a call would bring a servant to my aide to attend 
immediately to my needs. 

The natives of the district seemed to go in fear of the 
white man and looked upon the British Officer as a big 
white Sahib. For instance, one evening I heard a frightful 
din going on outside my bungalow at the back; 
went out and found about thirty natives arguing and 
fighting. I shouted a few words to then and they ceased 
their altercations and faded away immediately. 

I found the native part of Secunderabad deserted and 
walked through it without meeting a single person. All 
the shops and houses had been boarded up, for the 
natives had fled to the fields and erected rush huts live 
in. Plague was ravishing and, on some days, deaths were 
numerous and funerals an every day occurrence. According to 
official figures, a hundred and fifty deaths a day took 
place in the large city of Hyderabad situated a few miles 
distant . 

The nights were rather strange at first; Jackals prowled 
in packs and set up their weird wailing howl, whilst the 
frogs in the swamps croaked in chorus. Not far distant, 
panthers were in evidence and, on one occasion, a man- 
eating tiger caused considerable consternation at a nearby 
village, by appropriating some of the residents and making 

The draft had been inspected several times by various 
officers in high command. One incident rather amused me. 
Colonel Day, of the big engineering firm Day Summers & Co, 
inspected the draft soon after its arrival; he cross 
examined each man regarding his town of residence, 
profession, etc. and coming to one man, a conversation 
similar to the following took place - 

Colonel. "Where is your home?". 

Man "Southampton, Sir". 

Colonel. "What is your profession?" 

Man. "Engineer, Sir". 

Colonel. "Some little tin-pot firm, I suppose?" 


Ian. "Day Summers, Sir", 

(temporary collapse of the Colonel) . 

After a search in Secunderabad, I managed to discover the 
only respectable piano, which was a Broadwood Grand. I came 
to terms with the shopkeeper regarding the hire of it, and 
it was delivered and placed in my bungalow. Mr friend Vize 
(the musical comedy actor) and I spent many enjoyable 
musical evenings. 

Football matches were arranged and each platoon had its own 
team, which entered into competition; I was delighted to 
find that my platoon team were the winners of most matches. 

On Christmas Day, in accordance with custom, I found about a 
dozen and a half black servants waiting for me outside of 
the bungalow; they each had a wreath of flowers which they 
solemnly placed over my head to rest around my neck, and 
murmured expressions of salutations. Needless to add, the 
primary object of the display was the anticipated Christmas 
Box, which in all, depleted my bank balance to the tune of 
about two pounds ten shillings; my butler had quite an 
elaborately iced cake made for me. 

One day, whilst playing in a football match, officers 
vs sergeants, I came to grief. The pitch was a gravel 
one and, in falling, I slid along the ground and tore 
my leg on a flint; after the match, I proceeded to the 
hospital and had my leg dressed. In the East a wound 
invariably turns septic and my accident kept me 
hobbling about on two sticks for a fortnight. At the 
end of that period it became worse and a swelling 
appeared in my groin. I had to attend twice daily at 
the hospital for hot f ormentat ions to be applied, and 
felt a little nervous because a brother officer was 
occupying a bed with a similar trouble and had had a 
lump in the groin removed. 

Happily, however, in my case this was not necessary 
and the leg healed and the lump disappeared; I was 
excused all duty for nearly a month and went for 
drives into the country. 

My butler, who spoke quite good English, each day 
read battalion orders and informed me of any special 
duty for which I might be detailed on the following day. 


One evening, after dinner, I said, as usual - "Anything 
special in orders, Tamby?"; he replied, "Yes; Master has 
go to Rawal Pindi on a course". "Alright". I answered, 
"Arrange everything". Without my giving any detailed 
instructions, he ascertained the time the train left, 
my compartment, had my baggage packed and placed 
on a conveyance which waited outside the bungalow the 
following morning, and arranged everything. 

January 1916. 

I duly entrained, with my servant, and started on the long 
journey to Rawal Pindi; this entailed some days and nights 
of travelling. I had a nice compartment to myself, which 
possessed a comfortable couch bed and fittings. 
Periodically, throughout the day, the train stopped at a 
station for a length of time sufficient to enable lunch to 
be taken; this usually consisted of curried rice and chicken 
and my servant joined me and administered to my wants. 

The first part of the journey was accomplished on the Nizam 
of Hyderabad state Railway; After we had stopped for 
lunch at a station on the first day I discovered, when 
about a quarter of a mile on the resumed journey, that I 
had left my pith helmet behind; I pulled the 
communication cord and brought the train to a 
standstill. Consternation took place amongst the train 
officials and the guard came along and remonstrated with 
me; I informed him thatl was a British officer and had 
done what I considered necessary. The argument 
immediately terminated and I sent my servant back to the 
station for my helmet. 

I would not have liked to have taken such a course on 
the railways in England. 

I found the journey most interesting, as I was enabled to 
obtain a good idea of the country. We stopped for a time at 
Lahore and I walked into the town on a tour of inspection. 
The final part of the journey was very spectacular, when 
passing over the mountains. 

In due course, I reached my destination and was driven 
to Flashman's Hotel, Rawal Pindi, where I was to be 
placed under canvas; on account of the hotel being 
full, I was placed under canvas nearby. 


The following morning, I reported to the Adjutant 
of the School for instruction and settled down to another 
course of musketry. As I had already passed my examination 
on a similar course at Hayling Island, I did not have to 
unduly exert myself. We commenced at 8.30 a.m. and continued 
until 2.30 p.m. Parades and lectures had then finished but 
the usual copious notes required to be written up. 

In the afternoons, I played tennis on the hard court at the 
Rawal Pindi Club; sometimes, in the evenings, most exclusive 
dances were held. 

The town was divided, more or less, into two parts; one was 
composed of Europeans and natives, whilst the other, the 
native part, entirely of natives. The latter was placed out 
of bounds to the troops, as the appearance of Europeans was 
rather resented in that quarter; it was a common sight to 
see camels and bullock drawn carts. 

The weather was rather cold; snow had fallen and lay 
thickly . 

The final days of the course were given up to examinations 
and the results were duly published. On account of my former 
course, I was fortunate enough to receive a "distinguished" 
for the rifle and Lewis gun examinations. The course 
comprised officers from regiments from all parts of India, 
including Ghurkas, UK etc. and I struck up a friendship with 
a subaltern of the Devonshire Regiment; we decided to break 
our return journey and do a bit of prospecting. 

Before leaving Rawal Pindi, on one or two occasions I 
visited, in civilian clothes, the large bazaar in the native 
quarter of the town and obtained some snapshots. I was 
greeted with many glances which did not make me feel 
too much at home, for I did not meet a white man. At 
times it occurred to me that if one or two of the 
inhabitants suddenly decided to haul me into a 
house, stick a knife into my ribs, and rob me of my 
belongings, I would not be traced. 

My servant packed the baggage and my new friend and 
I entrained and proceeded to Delhi, where we arrived 
at 2 a.m. on a Sunday. We drove to the fashionable 
hotel called "The Maiden Hotel" and tumbled into 
bed. After breakfast, we set out to explore; 


unfortunately it was a wet day but we chartered a 
conveyance and drove to Friday Mosque and, after 
inspecting some ivory work in a neighbouring shop, 
went on to see the Kashmiri Gate. 

This gate still bore the cannon ball marks made 
during the Indian mutiny. We finished our tour by 
visiting a cinema show and then entrained for Agra, 
arriving there at 7 a.m. 

We drove to Laurie Hotel and rested for the night. The 
following day, we engaged a guide and visited the 
large fort. We spent the morning inspecting the wonderful 
marble and mosaics in the palaces and mosques. In the 
afternoon we visited one of the wonders of the world, 
the Taj Mahal . 

This was constructed of white marble and inlaid 
stones and was built by an Indian Price, Shah Bran, 
in memory of his favourite wife. The work of building 
was spread over twenty years and more than twenty 
thousand men were continuously employed upon it 
during that time. In the centre was a tomb surrounded 
by marvellously carved and fretworked screens of most 
delicate workmanship. 

We had to remove our boots before entering and were 
provided with rush slippers. A priest intoned a note which 
took twenty five seconds to gradually die away; for this 
service he expected half a rupee. 

We then proceeded to the tomb of Etmaduddaula, which 
is situated opposite to the Taj Mahal and on the other 
side of the river Jamna. This was a finely carved marble 
tomb erected by a Father in memory of his Daughter. Next 
we inspected a carpet factory and saw the natives making 
wonderful Indian carpets by hand. 

After dinner at the hotel, we joined several other 
officers in a musical evening and I had to officiate at 
the piano. 

The following day, I boarded the mail train and, in 
due course, reached Secunderabad. 


I found that the battalion was under canvas some 
miles away, undergoing certain tests; the greater 
part of this training I missed whilst on the course. 
I joined them in the evening and was allotted a bell 
tent . 

On entering this, to my surprise, I was greeted by a cobra 
snake about five feet long and made way for it to pass out 
and disappear down a hole at the entrance to the tent. I 
sent a man to obtain boiling water from the cooks and stood 
over the hole with a tent post which had an iron 
projection . 

The boiling water arrived and was poured down the hole and, 
as soon as the snake's head appeared hissing above the 
ground, I drove the pole through it and pinned it down. 
Natives watched the affair from a good distance, for they 
seemed afraid of snakes. I kept an anxious look out for its 
mate, for it was said, that it might possibly come along to 
investigate the absence of its partner. When snakes were 
killed, the men usually skinned them and made them into 
belts . 

The tests being ended, we returned to Gough Barracks and 
settled down again. I became possessed of two small monkeys, 
which slept in a box in a tree at the rear of the bungalow; 
they answered to the names of "Orace" and "Bert". One of 
them spent a considerable part of his existence perched upon 
my shoulder, with his arms round my neck; he enjoyed looking 
into the looking-glass whilst I was shaving and seemed to 
rather appreciate the flavour of the shaving soap, which he 
scraped from my chin, and tubes of tooth paste were 
constantly being destroyed. 

In the barracks we had our own mineral water plan and 
various fruit drinks were made and sold to the men at cost, 
price. Close to the barracks was a rifle range, where the 
men carried out their firing practices. 

Early one morning, the Brigade carried out an attack on a 
system of trenches; I had to smile, because the whole 
business was performed in a manner as little like the real 
thing as it was possible to imagine; neither the Staff nor 
the troops had seen active service which, no doubt, 
accounted for their extraordinary ideas on the subject. 


Whilst playing in another match, Officers vs. Sergeants, I 
once more came to grief on the hard ground. This time I fell 
on my hands, which doubled up under me. I suffered agony for 
a bit and had to attend hospital for "X" ray treatment; it 
was feared that I had fractured both wrists but, luckily, 
they were only severely sprained. For some time I went about 
with both arms in slings and later, had to attend at 
hospital for massage treatment. For the second time I was 
excused all parades. 

The battalion proceeded on three days brigade work, fighting 
rearguard actions and sleeping out and, as it was now very 
hot, (over a hundred degrees in the shade) , I was lucky to 
escape this part of the training. I remained behind as 
officer in charge of the barracks. 

Before my accident, I had commenced a course of instruction 
under the supervision of an Indian Major of the 7 th Lancers, 
and I was looking forward to resuming as soon as I had 
recovered the use of my wrists. 

At intervals, my turn as Orderly Officer came round and 
the duties kept me occupied throughout the day. At 11 
a.m. I attended Orderly Room and received orders, then 
I inspected the large white stone bungalows in which 
the men were quartered, seeing that they were swept out 
and perfectly clean, with the beds correctly rolled 
back, etc. During the nights, the bolts were removed 
from the rifles and the men slept with them beneath 
their pillows; a rifle without its bolt was useless. 
All the cookhouses, mineral water factory, etc. had 
then to be inspected and the issue of rations 

At 1 p.m. the food was fetched by orderlies from the 
cookhouses and the sky appeared to be black, by reason 
of the number of hawks flying round in circles, ready 
to swoop down on any unguarded piece of meat. I saw, on 
more than one occasion, an unsuspecting man walk along 
with a plate of meat and hawk swoop down and, in the 
space of a moment, carry off a titbit. 

At 6 p.m. the new guard had to be inspected and sentries 
posted round the barracks; they had to be visited twice 
during the night and, as the distance between the posts 
covered some miles, I performed the duty on a push cycle and 
took with me a thick stick, lest attacked by 


peck of snarling jackals. I enjoyed the marvellous 
Indian nights which, from the brightness of the moon, 
were like days; the sky was wonderfully clear and the 
brilliance of the stars made them appear to almost 
stand out from the sky. Then I returned to my bungalow 
and passed inside, I was greeted with "good night, 
Sahib" by the aged native night-watchman. 

The battalion received orders to entrain for Bombay for 
the Brigade was to embark for service elsewhere. We did 
not know where we were being sent but presumed that we 
were to be placed on garrison work; the officers were 
allowed to take 800 pounds of kit, whereas if proceeding 
active service, the weight was reduced to 35 pounds. 

The transport was loaded and the battalion was 
temporarily placed under canvas and vacated the barracks 
for a new regiment to occupy. Rumours were current to 
the effect that we were to proceed to Egypt to liberate 
other regiments for duty in Salonica. The move was 

postponed but, one morning, orders were received and at 
midnight we entrained. 

and left Secunderabad for Bombay. All rifles were handed 
in, for they were the property of the Indian Government. 
I was Orderly Officer and had plenty to do. My native 
servant accompanied me as far as Bombay and shed tears at 
the prospect of parting from me; this I took as quite a 
compliment . 

We duly arrived at the port on a Sunday and the officers 
arranged to spend the night in Bombay. After lunch, we 
explored the town and attended a revue at the Excelsior 
Theatre in the evening. Leaving this I ran into a 
Guildford fellow named May, a man I had years before; he 
had occupied a post in India for the past ten years and it 
was strange to meet a familiar face. We chatted over old 
times . 

The following day, we rose early, proceeded to the docks, 
and embarked on the s.s. "Egra", of the British Indian 
Steam Navigation Line (tonnage about 5,000 tons) and 
anchored in the harbour. There we rode for several days 
and the officers were permitted to go ashore daily and I 
had several enjoyable drives in Bombay and neighbourhood. 


We were allowed ashore in two parties daily; one from 10 
a.m. until 2 p.m. and the other, 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. 
We believed that we were ultimately to leave in a convoy 
because seven similar boats were riding at anchor and 
battleships were in attendance; it was understood that an 
armed enemy raider was at large. 

One of the men reported sick on board and died in a 
short while; we did not view the tragedy as a good omen 
in our fresh adventure. 

A government Rick on fire. The battalion was detailed to extinguish the fire. It took three 

days and nights. 


Voyage from India 
and service in Egypt and Palestine . 


We were very comfortably quartered aboard; the food was 
excellent and the band played during dinner each evening. A 
cabin was allotted to each three officers and Cameron, Vize 
and I were together again. 

We left in a convoy and were escorted by destroyers. The 
usual parades and amusements took place daily, physical 
drill, false alarms, concerts, etc. We passed schools of 
porpoises and flying fish and saw an occasional shark. 

I took my turn as officer of the watch and during the duty I 
had, throughout the night, to visit at intervals the 
thirteen sentries and keep a special look out for sign of 
fire breaking out aboard. 

One special incident occurred during the voyage. A rumour 
became current that there was a young French lady aboard, 
who had been seen promenading on deck late in the evenings, 
and it was understood that the Captain of the boat had, when 
in port, taken pity on the damsel and had undertaken to give 
her a passage to Egypt, allotting to her a cabin on the 
strict understanding that complete secrecy was to be 
observed or he would get into serious trouble for taking her 
aboard a transport ship. 

The First mate and an officer of one battalion, succeeded in 
gaining admittance to the lady's cabin and were apparently 
badly smitten; they gave her many presents of chocolates and 
cigarettes as they vied one another in the endeavour to 
capture her attentions; she only spoke broken English and 
had difficulty in understanding them. 

This went on for some time but, in due course, a letter from 
the lady appeared on the notice board, thanking the officers 
for their kind attentions and for the many presents 
received, whilst expressing at the same time her regret that 
she could no longer see them; she requested that they would 
refrain from visiting her. 

A concert was held on deck that evening and the lady duly 

appeared on the arm of the Captain and occupied a chair 

in the front row. We were all naturally most interested to 

see her and agreed that she was a particularly pretty girl, 

extremely well dressed and of the true Parisian type. She 

sat and listened to the concert and smoked cigarettes 

and ate chocolates. 


At the interval, the bomb exploded. The Captain rose to his 
feet and made a speech and informed us that as we should 
soon be making port, an explanation was imperative. As we 
knew, it was by now common talk regarding the presence of 
the lady aboard and in order to save himself from getting 
into trouble through incorrect information reaching the ears 
of his seniors, he would request the lady to remove her 
hair . 

We were astounded to find that one of the officers had 
brought aboard a complete make-up and that all had been 
completely taken in, with the exception of the Captain and 
another officer; they had assisted in the deception. After 
the concert, tht "lady" again donned her wig and promenaded 
the deck. 

The officer was a young man of about nineteen years of age 
and was dressdd with every care as to detail, wearing a silk 
dress and stockings and patent shoes. He spoke with quite a 
fascinating broken accent and smoked cigarettes in a long 
holder. Strange as it may appear, this officer sat next to 
me in the dining saloon each day and when I spoke to him in 
his disguise, I hadn't faintest suspicion; even when I knew 
the truth, I could scarcely believe my own eyes and ears, 
for he had studied every little mannerism of a girl. 

The "lady's" two admirers received the exposure with very 
mixed feelings and had to endure many digs and chaffs but 
found it best to take the matter in a sporting way. 

Aden was reached and the ship anchored in the harbour. I 
was asleep in my bunk but awakened by the dreaded cry 
"man overboard"; I pushed my head through a porthole and 
just discerned a man struggling in the water. 

Several lifebelts had been flung to him and he was 
surrounded by them but, unfortunately, he could not, 
swim. Another man jumped from the deck above and 
supported the drowning man whilst a boat was lowered. 

We felt very anxious because thereabouts the sea was 
infested with sharks but fortunately the two men were 
safely hauled aboard and none the worse for their 
ducking . 


The man who had fallen in had been asleep in 
one of the lifeboats on the top deck and, in turning 
over, had rolled over the side and plunged down into the 
sea . 

We spent one day at that port and I went ashore, had a 
look round, and witnessed a strenuous football match 
taking place between the crews of two naval ships. 

The following day we resumed our journey through the Red 
Sea to Suez. 

We unloaded the transport, paraded the men on the 

quay and entrained. The men were packed into open trucks and 

the officers into goods wagons; we set off on a three hour 

journey into the desert and were placed under canvas. 

It was extremely hot during the day but cool at night and 

there was nothing to look at but sand. 

Each day we were taken for a long route march across the 
desert; sinking into the sand at each step made the going 
extremely hard. My Company Commander and I were detailed to 
make a map of the surrounding country and went forth each 
morning armed with compass. Now we were on active service, 
officers kit had been reduced to the minimum weight and the 
balance packed and sent to our private bankers to hold 
pending further instructions. 

Each morning I went for a gallop across the desert on a 
horse borrowed from the lines. On one occasion, we came in 
for a sand storm which we could see approaching in the 
distance. It came nearer and nearer, and finally we were in 
the thick of it. A hot gale blew (the temperature was 120 
degrees in the shade) and the sand stung the face; it was 
impossible to open the eye. We kept in our tents but a 
sudden heavier burst brought all the tents down. I managed 
to secure a hurrican lamp which I lighted and crawled out of 
the tent to try and find out how the men were faring. 

As soon as I stood up, the gale blew out even the hurrican 
lamp, my-eyes filled and my face was stung by the sand. I 
crawled back under the collapsed tent and lay there until the 
storm had passed over, perspiring profusely 
the whole time. 


In due course, I again crept out and found that all the 
tents had been blown down, many of the articles had been 
scattered across the desert, and tents and belongings buried 
in the sand; we had to set to and dig them out. 

Many things were completely lost and for days afterwards we 
had sand in everything even our food. 

After a period in this place, we went on again and I was 
detailed to attend a course of instruction in the Lewis gun 
at Zeitoun, a twenty minute electric car ride from Cairo. My 
kit was packed and my servant and I duly reached the school, 
where we were quartered in huts made from rush matting. 

I proposed to have an easy time in view of the fact that I 
had previously attended courses of a similar nature. 

Cairo was a fine town, with plenty of amusement and 
splendid shops, and I spent many very enjoyable times, 
dining at Shepherd's Hotel and attending cinemas etc. 

Two officers and I, one day, proceeded to Cairo the 
intention of visiting the Pyramids; we chartered camels and, 
accompanied by guides, duly reached them. The best known 
group was that of Gizeh , which contained eleven in number 
and the largest one, that of Cheops, was 450 feet in height 
and contained over 80 millions of cubic feet of masonry. 

They were constructed some 3,700 years B.C. Limestone was 
the chief material used but large blocks of granite, each 
weighing five or six tons, formed the outer casing. In all 
cases, the four triangular sides were so placed as to face 
the four points of the compass. 

An intricate passage was left, during the raising of each 
pyramid, leading to the central chamber. 

They had square bases which tapered upwards to apexes. 


We entered the Pyramid of Cheops and the steep 
approaches inside were slopes of polished stone in 
which niches, allowing just sufficient room for the toe, 
had been cut; the width of the "stairway" was only about 
two feet and it rose at an acute angle between the walls 
which were formed by the huge stones. Our guide led and 
we joined hands. 

In line, we worked our way up the first "stairway" until 
we found ourselves in the Queen's Chamber, which 
contained an empty stone sarcophagus. 

The whole procedure was carried out in pitch darkness 
and when in the chamber, our guide lit a piece of magnesium 
tape and we took a hurried look round. Crossing the chamber, 
we came upon another steep "stairway" and again we ascended 
in the dark, joined hand in hand and clambered up sideways, 
until we reached the King's Chamber which was situated about 
half way up the pyramid. 


Another piece of magnesium tape was ignited and we once 
again took a hurried look round and found another empty 
sarcophagus. Needless to add, each time a light was 
forthcoming, the guide expected to be suitably paid. The 
pyramid was ventilated by huge shafts which had been 
instituted by the positioning of the blocks of stone. 

After a little while, we negotiated the steep descents and 
found ourselves in the open air again but were temporarily 
blinded by the glare of the sun striking down upon the sand, 
after being in pitch darkness. 

Close to the Cheops pyramid was the fashionable Yena House 
Hotel, where we adjourned and revived ourselves with 
refreshing drinks. 

We then returned to the pyramid and viewed the Sphinx 
which was situated close by. This was an immense figure 
exceeding 170 feet in length and 100 feet in height, hewn 
out of rock. The body and paws were those of a lion and 
the face and breast those of a woman. The shifting sands 
of the desert periodically covered it and it was 
necessary to clear them away at intervals. 

Nearby, we went below ground into some catacombs which 
consisted of caves or passages used in ancient times as 
burying places. On both sides of the passages, recesses were 
made in which bodies had been interred. 

The inhabitants of Cairo were most cosmapolitan and 
consisted of Egyptians, Greeks, French, Italians, Arabs, 
etc and most of the people spoke several languages. Near 
the school was an amusement park named Luna Park, which 
contained a mountain railway, water chute, helter-skelter, 
puzzle houses, etc. etc. and we spent many happy evenings 
there and, on one occasion, met a nice Italian family and 
spent some pleasing times at their residence. 

Sundays were very much like week days; the shops were open 
and theatres and cinemas were in full swing. On one Sunday I 
went to a theatre but as the performance was conducted in 
French, I did'nt appreciate it much. The wording of the 
cinema films was shown in three languages. French, English 
and Arabic; I enjoyed those performances because I could 
understand them a little better. 


We visited the Zoological Gardens in Cairo, which were 
nicely laid out and most interesting. 

The Egyptian women wore the yasmak, which covered the 
face to the eyes; the men mostly wore European clothes 
with a red fez. There were hundreds of donkeys for hire, 
for this was one of the customary methods of conveyance; 
several of us hired steeds and indulged in races and, on 
more than one occasion, I was shot over a donkey's head 
into the sand when the native running behind applied his 
stick too vigorously, thus causing my steed to suddenly 
stop as a protest. 

Near to the school was a noted tree and well called 
"The Virgin's Tree" and "The Virgin's Well". It was 
reputed that the Virgin Mary had leant against the 
tree and drank from the well during her flight to 
Cairo with the infant Christ, at the time of the 
extermination of the first borns by Herod. An English 
church stood nearby and it contained some magnificent 
frescos . 

The course completed, I entrained and rejoined the 
battalion on the desert. It was exceedingly hot and 
the flies were a great nuisance. We were issued with 
tinted glasses, for it was reputed that it was possible 
to contract sunstroke through the eyes by reason of the 
glare of the sun striking up from the sand. 

We left this place and marched for several miles, leaving 
at 2.30 a.m. in order to make the most of the coolest part 
of the day. We stayed the night at a small place and 
continued the next day until we arrived at another camp; 
here we spent the rest of the day and night by the side of 
the canal. We enjoyed some splendid bathing. 

Whilst on these marches, I had a somewhat strenuous 
time; I was Lewis gun officer and responsible for the 
guns and drums of ammunition which were being carried by 
mules that had not been broken in thoroughly. Each mule 
carried a gun on one side and drums of ammunition the 
other . 


Eight of them followed the battalion on the march and, 
at intervals, one of them would become restive, kick up 
its heels, throw off the gun and ammunition drums, and 
dash off across the desert; some of the others would 
then follow the example set. We had to chase, capture, 
and load them up again; in the meantime, the battalion 
had continued on its way and got a long distance ahead 
of us and we had to hurry to catch up with the main body 
and, in the terrific heat, rejoined them in a condition 
of exhaustion. 

This undesirable form of exercise occurred on several 
occasions and was the cause of fluent army expressions; 
we perspired profusely. 

In the evening, we entrained in open cattle trucks and 
travelled throughout the night until we arrived at El 
Arish. The smuts from the engine made us in an awful 
mess, all our kit was covered with blacks and we looked 
like a lot of miners; we were placed under canvas. 

In turn, outpost duty at night had to be undertaken; I took 
my platoon some distance from the camp and occupied a 
prepared trench. Our duty was to challenge anyone 
approaching the camp and to guard against a surprise by 
wandering tribes, etc. 

Although not such of a horseman, I used daily to take a ride 
over the desert. One day, I begged a horse from the lines 
and requested a quiet one, knowing full well my limited 
capability. I was given a fine big horse but as soon as I 
had mounted, the fun commenced. I just managed to retain my 
seat but the horse reared, got the bit in its mouth, and set 
off at a full gallop across the sand. I had no say in the 
matter but managed to sit tight until it had tired; I 
afterwards learned that the Colonel had forbidden the 
Signals Officer to ride the horse, as he didn't want that 
officer's neck broken. I considered I had been very lucky in 
not coming to grief. 

We had splendid sea bathing near the camp but had to keep a 
look out for sharks. We were placed on a restricted 
allowance of drinking water, one waterbottle full a day 
which was always warm; we buried our waterbottles in the 
sand in an endeavour to keep the water as cool as possible. 


Hundreds of camels were utilized for bringing up the water 
in large tanks, which were placed one on each side of their 
backs; they were led by Arabs. 

The food was more of the active service variety, with the 
inevitable stew etc. 

After a period in this place, we moved on to Ismalia for a 
time. It was a charming spot where we enjoyed more 
excellent bathing; a splendid club enabled us to spend 
comfortable evenings. 

I was detailed for another course; this time in Musketry and 
Bayonet Fighting; my servant packed by kit and we entrained 
and duly found ourselves back at the Zeitoun School once 
more. The course lasted for three weeks and the usual 
lectures were attended, then the consequent writing up of 
notes occupied my time. 

I renewed my acquaintance with Cairo, Luna Park, and the 
many amusements, and visited the Italian family who had been 
so hospitable on the previous occasion. There were three 
girls and two brothers and they spoke English fairly well. 

On one occasion, an Egyptian friend was present (a middle 
aged man) ; he was a hypnotist and soon placed the oldest 
girl under influence and made her write several things. He 
expressed the opinion that he could hypnotise me and, with 
my permission, he commenced. He had the most penetrating 
eyes which seemed to bore into one and I began to feel 
myself going off, with my cheeks twitching. I mustered all 
my strength of will and managed to hold out against his 
influence and felt rather uncomfortable. He informed me that 
he could not carry out the experiment if I willed myself 
against him but that if I would relax for a moment, he would 
send me off; I declined with thanks. 

I obtained a "distinguished" for the course, (more 
by luck than judgement) , packed up, entrained in an 
open railway truck and, after being bumped about for a 
day or two, reached the rail head at Bela; I had 
ascertained that, during my absence, the battalion, had 
moved into the trenches in front of Gaza. 

I tramped up as far as the 
picketed in a a gully some 
and duly joined my company 

transport, which was 
distance behind the line, 
in the trenches. 


When I arrived, the Turks were shelling the firing line 
with 5.9 shells and it seemed like old times to be 
under fire again. 

The front line consisted of built up breast works, 
constructed of sandbags filled with sand, and we were 
situated in the part of the line that ran down the side 
of a cliff into the sea; the barbed wire entanglements 
extended into the sea. The front line itself was just 
beneath the crest of a small hill and the enemy could 
not be seen from there. 

In consequence, strong posts had been constructed, at 
intervals, on the tops of small hills. These were 
connected to the front line by communication trenches. 
These strong posts were each held by one platoon for 
forty eight hours before being relieved. From the 
posts, Gaza could be seen and the Turkish trenches of 
defence; we had only two lines of trenches, front line 
and reserve. 

The heat was great and nothing but sand could be seen 
on our right and sea on our left; anchored off 
the coast, in rear, were several monitors which shelled 
the Turkish defences at intervals. 

I settled down to the new life and found things far 
more comfortable than those experienced in France. The 
enemy only subjected us to periodical shellfire and 
when quiet, conditions were quite pleasant as compared 
with the incessant shelling in France, with the 
additional inconvenience of the mud and filth. 

One discomfort was the rationing of water and we were 
allowed one waterbottle full per day; after dark, this was 
brought up to the reserve line by camels led by natives. 
The main supply was conveyed to the rail head in huge tank 
railway trucks and was then transferred 

to the tanks carried by the camels. By the time it reached 
us, it was tepid; as before, we buried our waterbottles in 
the sand to keep the water as cool as possible. 

Aeroplanes were seen overhead during the day, sometimes our 
own and, at other times, those of the enemy. On one 
occasion, an enemy plane flew over our trench and performed 
several loops and stunts, notwithstanding the fire of our 
anti-aircraft guns. 


I imagined that the ancient battles in those parts had been 
of a less noisy character than the one we now engaged in and 
felt that a few Samsons would have been of assistance in 
pushing over the defences of Gaza. 

My application for transfer to the Royal Flying Corps was 
placed before the Commanding Officer; he signed the 
necessary papers and forwarded them through the usual 
channels. In due course they were accepted by Brigade and 
Division (75th) and I was prepared to wait for an indefinite 
period before being duly summoned to the Royal Flying Corps. 

The construction of breast works, necessitating the filling 
of sandbags, was not welcomed by the men who had to work in 
such heat. As we were in a sector so close to the sea, 
parties were allowed daily to go down to the beach and 
bathe. This was most enjoyable further along the coast, we 
could just discern the Turks engaged upon a similar 
occupation. Occasionally the bathers on both sides were 
subjected to a shelling by shrapnel shells and then a 
general stampede for cover took place. 

A number of men were wounded whilst bathing; we had to keep 
a look out for sharks and, once or twice, had to leave the 
water rather hurriedly. It seemed far worse to be shelled 
when without clothes, for one felt absolutely helpless and, 
curiously enough, much more confidence was experienced when 
fully dressed. 

I was detailed to carry out a small bombing raid and to take 
over a dozen men to the enemy lines after dark. I worked out 
a plan and several evenings, after dark, I set off across no 
man's land to spy out the ground and to select the safest 
route by utilizing any dead patches which dipped down and so 
afforded a certain amount of cover from machinegun fire. On 
these expeditions, I approached the Turkish trenches as near 
as possible but must confess that it was not an occupation 
that I would have selected for the sake of amusement. 

The idea had been that of the Battalion Commander but by the 
time I had got the scheme in readiness, word came through 
that Brigade would not sanction the raid and so it was 
cancelled . 

We were subjected to quite a lot of shelling by "Wiz- 
bangs" (18 pounder shells}, which were projectiles from 
small field guns. 


The shells were of great velocity, with a low trajectory, 
and no warning was given of their approach; the wizz and 
the explosion were practically simultaneous (hence the 
name "wizz -bang") . 

They had a happy knack of arriving when least expected and 
caused a certain amount of amusement at times. My sergeant 
often entertained me by saying, "I don't like them there 
how-do-you-dos, Sir". 

Once an orderly, carrying up a dixie of tea, scorned the 
use of the communication trench and derided those who 
utilized it but the unexpected quick arrival of a "wizz- 
bang", which passed him with its rushing wizz to explode 
beyond, somewhat upset his equilibrim and he dropped the 
dixie and gazed around in astonishment. The expression 
on his face made the rest of the fellows roar with 
laughter . 

At times a group of men, when standing together, would 
be surprised by the sudden arrival of one of these 
projectiles and a rush for cover would take place much 
to the amusement of onlookers; the remarks passed varied 
with the humour, or otherwise, of the occasion. 

Whilst on duty, with my platoon, in a strong post out 
in front of our trench, the following incident 
occurred. Although it was against orders for the 
officer to sleep during the night, I had come to a 
comfortable agreement with my sergeant that, in turn, 
we should retire for an hour or two. 

I had just dropped to sleep, when I was awakened with 
the request that I would go and investigate the 
appearance of a number of Turks grouped in no man's 
land. I went along to the sentry, who had made the 
report, and after looking over the parapet for a time, 
was forced to confess my inability to discern any sign 
of the enemy. I realised that the men were just from 
India and had not experienced active service so 
supposed that it was simply a case of jumpy nerves. 

I reassured the sentries and told them to keep a good look 
out, whilst I returned to my sleep, giving orders to the 
sergeant that I was to be roused in the event of further 
activity presenting itself. 


I had no sooner got to sleep again, however, than I was once 
more awakened and back to the sentries I went; they assured 
me that there was a party of the enemy standing on the crest 
of a hillock and I took a look through my field glasses. 

It was a moonlight night and at the white sand could just be 
seen a group of men. Iwondered whether we were to be treated 
to a bomb raid. At that moment the telephone in the dugout 
rang and I answered it; a commander of a battery of our 
artillery rang up to test the line and a conversation 
similar to the following, took place. 

Battery Commander. 

"Things quiet up there?" 
Myself . 

"Oh yes, nothing much doing. I am investigating a small 
body of the enemy gathered in front". 
Battery Commander . 

"Turks out in front?" "Let me send over a six inch shell or 


Myself . 

"No thanks; it's not worth while" 
Battery Commander. 

"Oh do, there's a sport; I'm longing for a bit of practice". 
Myself . 

"No; we can manage alright . 
Battery Commander. 

"Just one; let me know where it lands. Give me the position 
the enemy" . 

The Artillery usually remained quiet throughout the 
nights, unless a special show was in progress, and I 
wondered how our troops in the front line would feel if 
heavy shells passed over their heads to the enemy. The 
post I occupied possessed machineguns but orders had been 
issued that they were only to be fired when absolutely 
necessary, as it was desired that the enemy should be kept 
ignorant of the strength of the post. 

I wondered whether the present circumstances could be 
termed "absolutely necessary" and so warrant the use of 
the machineguns. 

Coupled with the foregoing was the insistant pleading of 
the Battery Commander to be allowed to fire his guns and 
so I succumbed to his request. 



"The enemy is grouped on a ridge just in front of us; you 
can fire one round if you like." 
Battery Commander . 

"Splendid; I know the spot. Tell your chaps to keep low and 
(we kept low and presently a heavy shell passed over our 
heads and landed out in front with a terrific crash, which 
echoed through the silent night; it dropped, however, to the 
right of the group of men) ' 
Battery Commander. 
"How was that?" 

"Too far right". 
Battery Commander. 
"How much?". 

"Two degrees". 
Battery Commander . 

"Stand by; I'm going to send another", 
(we waited and presently another shell went over 
which, according to the sentry, landed right on the 
group) . 

Battery Commander. 

"How's that?" 

"O.K.; it landed right on the party" 

Battery Commander. 

"Good; anything more wanted?" 


"No, thanks". 

Battery Commander. 

"Cheerio" . 


"Night night". 

The phone bell then started to ring again most 
energetically and the Company Commander spoke from 
the front line as follows 

Company Commander 

"What on earth is happening out there; are you 
alright?" . 
Myself . 

"Oh, yes; everything if quite OK". 
Company Commander 

"What is all the shelling about?" 


Myself . 

"We had a bunch of larks out in front and as the 
artillery had rung up to test the line, and were so 
keen on firing a round or two, I reluctantly 
consented" . 
Company Commander 

"Well, all the men in the front line are standing to 
with fixed bayonets in case of an attack". 
Myself . 

"Everything is quite quiet now; I'll let you know if 
anything occurs. Better send the army back to bed again, 
Good night". 

I must confess that I quite expected to be hauled over 
the coals, by the Commanding Officer, for playing 
about with the war but realised the natural 
restlessness of the inexperienced troops behind and 
consious of the extreme difference between my present 
experience and the past ones in France, where shells 
had been fired more or less continuously throughout 
the days and nights. 

I was surprised, however, not to hear another word of 
the affair. 

On another occasion, whilst on duty in an advanced 
post, we were surprised at dawn by intense rifle and 
machinegun fire being opened upon us and wondered 
whether an attack was to take place. 

We lay low and waited but when things had died down we 
perceived, on looking over the parapet, that two lurks 
were lying in a piece of dead ground, not far from the 
post; they waved white flags and signalled us not to 
fire . 

Two men crawled out, whilst the rest covered them with 
their rifles, and brought in the Turks who were badly 
wounded. They had apparently become tired of the war 
and had decided to give themselves up as prisoners but 
their own people, seeing the intention, had opened 
fire to prevent them being captured alive. 
We put them on to stretchers and, after providing them 
cigarettes, they were carried back. 


Whilst in this sector, I came in for a rather unpleasant 
task. During my inspection of the sentries in the front 
line during one night, I came upon a man who had 
apparently fallen asleep at his post. 

As sentries responsible for the safety of the rest, who 
were sleeping, any man so caught, if reported, would be 
courtmart ialed . If found guilty, would be liable to be 
shot as a penalty. I realised the seriousness of the 
matter but could not bring myself to be responsible for 
the consequences resulting from the man's possible 
courtmart ial . 

I quickly retraced my steps until I had regained the 
traverse of the trench, picked up a large stone, and 
threw it in the direction of the sleeping man; I then 
walked back to him, making plenty of noise, and found 
him awake. "Everything quiet, sentry?", I asked. "Yes, 
Sir", he replied. 

I whereupon chatted for a while and told him the 
imprortance of keeping on the alert. I had placed myself 
in an awkward position, for I dared not allow it to 
become known that I had found a sentry asleep and not 
reported the matter or I, myself, would have been due 
for a courtmartial, even the man was not to know that I 
had awakened him. 

I received the following letter from my late butler in 
Secunderabad, which interested and amused me - 

30. 3. 1917. Trimulgherry. 

Respected Sir, 

With due respect and humble submission approach to your kind consideration 
hoping to meet success. That is I left Master in Bombay straight, come to my 
home. I could not get any job yet and also no any regiment comes yet only that 
13th Combined Depot only in here at present. I send by post the photos for your 
Mother address here with enclosed my testamonials in type writing because that 
you gave me it is when I folding it it is make dirt. So that your honour kindly 
put your initial and return to my address here with enclosed the receipt for the 3 
photos and oblige. 2/ 5th Hants Butlers are all waiting for the jobs - 

Lieut Vise, Sahib, Lieut Brocklehurst, Sahib, Lieut. Racine, Sahib, Abdull Butler 
and Babo Butler and Thumbie, give their best salaams and respects for their 
Masters. Please send me the replay Sir. I am waiting for it and oblige. 


Thumbie Butler 

Residing in R.H,A,Followers Line, 
New Building, 
Trimulgherry. Deccan 

The routine continued day by day and a raid on the Turkish 
trenches was planned. This expedition was placed in 

the hands of another officer and myself (by reason of our 
previous experience) and we were to conduct the operation, 
taking with us three other officers and two hundred non- 
commissioned officers and men. I was selected to share the 
responsibility and we carefully mapped out a plan of 
campaign . 

The raiding party was sent back a short distance behind 
the front line and camped on the beach for a week, 
where an exact replica of the Turkish positions 
(obtained from aerial photographs), was dug. Daily 
practices in assault were carried out and each man made 
familiar with the part he was to take in the attack, so 
that in the darkness of the night he would be able to 
proceed without hesitation to his objective. 

Whilst undergoing this work of preparation, I had 
dug a small crevice in the foot of the cliff and so made 
a comfortable little dugout on the seashore, where I sat 
and either wrote letters, read, or gazed out to sea, 
whilst the perspiration perpetually trickled down my face. 
My uniform consisted of a khaki shirt (with rolled 
sleeves) , trill shorts, putties and boots, and a pith 
helmet, together with a Sam brown belt carrying a revolver 
with pouch of ammunition, a haversack and waterbottle. 

I spent the best part of one day in my little dugout 
in the cliff but went out for some dinner with my 
brother officers in the evening. On my return, I 
was surprised to find that the cliff had subsided and 
all my belongings buried. 

I realised that I had had a lucky escape and detailed 
a party of men to dig out my things, which duty took 
quite a long time. 

Two days before the raid, the party carried out 
a "dress rehersal". 


At 11 p.m. we formed up and proceeded in the darkness, 
half way across no man's land, took up our positions, and 
then returned to reserve again. One of the officers, after 
writing his Will, handed it to another to hold in case he 
should be unlucky enough not to get back safely from the 
raid . 

The actual day of the attack arrived. We were to storm a 
stronghold named Sea Post, after artillery preparation. To 
the left, and just in front, was nother small enemy post 
named Sugar Loaf; this had to be silenced by a small party 
of men whilst the remainder advanced upon 

Sea Post. On the right was a ridge called Umbrella Hill. The 
raiding party was divided into two main bodies, one I 
commanded whilst the other was supervised by my partner in 
the scheme. Our wrist watches had been syncronised with 
those of the officers of the artillery and every detail was 
considered. We knew that the Turks were celebrating their 
Ramadan (a Mahommedan fast) and hoped to catch them 
unprepared . 

It was a beautiful moonlight night, which only the 

occasional discharge of a rifle disturbed, and 

at 10.30 p.m. we left our trenches and proceeded half way 

across no man's land, took up our positions and 

awaited the time to attack; zero hour was 11 p.m. 

The signal for the commencement of the artillery 
bombardment was to be ten rounds rapid field gun fire 
directed upon Sugar Loaf, to start at 10.50 p.m. As soon 
as positions had been taken up, with the men kneeling in 
the sand in readiness for the command to advance, I stood 
up and, on consulting the luminous dial of my watch, found 
that we had ten minutes to go before the fun was to 
commence . 

I faced our own lines and was struck by the wonder of the 
night with its peacef ulness . The ten minute wait seemed 
endless but, in due course, the battery of field guns 
opened fire on Sugar Loaf and immediately the rest of the 
hundreds of guns in the sector, of various sizes, joined 
in the bombardment and wherever I looked, I could see 
innumerable flashes behind our lines as the guns 
continuously fired their salvos; a perfectly quiet night 
was soon turned into one of fury and all the terrific fire 
was directed upon Umbrella Hill, on our right, as a feint. 


This hurrican of shells rained down for ten minutes and 
then switched round on to Sea Pont, our objective, and we 
commenced our advance. The small party on our left flank 
proceeded diagonally, and silenced the occupants of Sugar 
Loaf, whilst we continued until we again halted some 
distance from the Turkish stronghold. 

The bombardment had finished and lifted on to the enemy 
reserve line to prevent him from sending up his 
reinforcements . 

Directly the bombardment had lifted, the men equipped with 
wirecutters ran forward and cut passages in the enemy 
entanglements for us to pass through. The noise of the 
bursting shells had been terrific and we had had to shout 
into one anothers ears to be heard; We found our way by 
picking up our bearings as the enemy trenches revealed 
themselves to us by the flashes of the exploding shells. 

A number of our shells dropped short of their objectives and 
exploded behind us; this did not improve matters. When we 
passed through the wire entanglements, we found several of 
the enemy lying dead; they had Hurriedly retired from Sugar 
Loaf and been caught in our barrage. We very soon occupied 
the stronghold and did considerable damage to the occupants 
and threw bombs into all the dugouts; many of the enemy 
surrendered and were grouped together outside the trench in 
readiness to accompany us on our return journey. 

I carried a pick shaft in one hand and a loaded revolver in 
the other; my pockets were filled with bombs. I stood on the 
top of the enemy trench, directing operations, whilst the 
men disposed of the occupants in the authorised manner. 

We met with very little opposition from the Turks; we had 
previously received instructions not to bring back more 
than about a dozen prisoners but to exterminate as many as 
possible during the short time we were to remain in 
the enemy trenches. 

Most of them had been driven into the dugouts by the 
bombardement and our men went up and down the trenches 
throwing bombs amongst them. It was an absolute slaughter 
and I hadn't the heart to take an active part in it . I 
wandered into one dugout and collected one or two souvenirs 
to take back. 


During the raid, I experienced one of the narrowest 
escapes of my war service. I was standing on the top of 
the Turkish trench, directing operations, when on turning 
round, I saw one of the enemy a few paces away with his 
rifle presented at me; I was so surprised that I simply 
stood still and waited. 

A sharp click indicated that the trigger had been pressed 
but either the rifle had not been loaded or the cartridge 
a faulty one, for no bullet greeted me, much to my 
relief. Had the rifle fired, my opponent could not have 
missed me at such short distance. One of my men standing 
nearby, immediately rushed forward and effectively dealt 
with the situation. 

After a stay of fifteen minutes, three star shells were 
fired from our front line trench, as a signal for us to 
return. As prearranged, I ordered a party of some twenty 
men, with rifles loaded, to line the top of the front 
Turkish trench to form a cover party to protect the 
remainder as they passed back with the prisoners and a 
captured machinegun. 

As soon as the main body had passed through and were nearly 
back to our trenches, I assembled the men and, after 
checking the number to ensure no man being left behind, we 
started on the return journey, utilizing all the dead 
ground possible in order to avoid the heavy machinegun fire 
which had now opened from the enemy flanks . 

we duly reached the safety of our front line and sheltered 
from a heavy counter-bombardment from the enemy 
artillery. The prisoners were conducted to 

the rear and placed in a barbed entanglement enclosure which 
had been prepared for their reception. The following day, I 
had to write a long and detailed account for submission to 
Brigade . 

(At a later date, a Turkish officer was captured and a 
document found on him stated that the losses sustained by 
the enemy during the raid amounted to some sixty in number.) 

During the next few days a special look out was exercised, 
as it was considered probable that the enemy would favour us 
with a raid in retaliation but we were left alone. 


We lapsed into the usual trench routine, with the 
periodical shelling and usual fatigue work, and I was 
amused by the receipt of a further letter from my late 
servant in India, which read as follows: 

30th May 1917 - Trimulgherry, India. 

Most Honoured Sir, - 

I most humbly and respectfully beg to submit this following few lines to your kind 
consideration. That I am received your kind letter of the 25th May and had very much 
glad about heard your news, when I leave the Master since then I was in 
unemployment. The new Regiment are not come yet, here are very difficult to get gob. 
The other butlers are same as me, I am very sorry about masters are in trench of Egypt. 
I myself praying and worshiping the God all day and night for war are finishing soonly, 
if masters come away without any wound and sick, by grace of God I shall be glad, and 
but your obedient myself was in very dangerous ill for the fever and headache about last 
three weeks now I am little better by grace of God and of master, if I not get any gobs 
in here, I wish to go to (Bombay) for employment, Sir. Kindly tell my saladins to Vize 
Shab. Cameron Shab. and to Bracklet Shab. 

Sir pleasly if you give answer to my humble letter I shall give ever feel thankfull to 
your honour. 

Your most humble and obedient servant 
Thamby Kathavaroyan. Butler 
R.H.A. Family Line 
New Building. 
Trimulgherry. India. 

I still awaited orders to proceed to the Royal Flying 
Corps and was impatient to gain fresh experiences. 

As our recent raid had been so successful, it was 
decided that a party of the Bedford Regiment, holding 
the line on our right, would carry out a similar one 
on he enemy trenches at Umbrella Hill. 

On the night of the attack, I occupied a dugout in the 
reserve line and settled myself down to await the result of 
the undertaking. Our artillery opened a heavy bombardment on 
the enemy trenches and the raiders went over. 

Unfortunately the enemy was on the alert this time and 
opened a very heavy fire upon the attackers, who suffered 
heavy casualties and had to retire. 


When they again reached their own trench, they ran into a 
barrage of enemy 5.9 shells, which caused severe havoc and 
I kept in my dugout whilst intense continuous artillery 
and machinegun fire progressed. The following morning, I 
witnessed the distressing result, for a burial party was 
at work disposing of the remains which literally had to be 
shovelled into a huge hole. 

I readily realised the good fortune that had attended our 
raid, in comparison with the one attempted the previous 
evening . 

In a few days time, I received orders to report 

the training school of the Royal Flying Corps at 

Cairo. I visited my brother officers to say goodbye and 

bade farewell to the Adjutant, who congratulated me upon 

the success of the recent raid and informed me that my 

name had been submitted to Divisional Headquarters for 

mention in despatches. 

I proceeded to the reserve where a horse, which had 
been sent up from the transport lines, awaited me; I 
mounted and rode across the desert to Bela; the railhead, 
here I entrained and journeyed to Cairo and reported to 
the Adjutant of the school and settled myself down in my 
new quarters, obtaining many notebooks in readiness no 
commence my new studies . 


Service in The Royal Flying Corps 
(later called The Royal Air Force) 



A room in the barracks was allotted me, together with 
another officer, where I enjoyed the peace and quietude 
after the trench routine, with its periodical shelling and 
occasional trips across no man's land. j 

We were kept pretty busy on the course, which lasted for a 
month. The hours of duty were, - 6.30 a.m. to 7 a.m., 8.30 
a.m. to 12 p.m., 2.45 p.m. to 4 p.m. , 5.15 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

and after dinner, the usual copious notes to be written up. 

The following subjects were taken - 

Rigging - How to rig an aeroplane, i.e. the different struts 
and wood used, various bracing wires and how to true up the 
planes to their correct angles of incidence etc. 
Engines - Three different models to be known in detail 
Wireless - including sending and receiving in morse. 
Theory of Flight. 
Maps . 

Artillery Co-operation - a big subject. 
Bombs - their construction etc. 
Bomb Dropping. 
Aerial Photography . 

Machine-guns . - their mechanism, stoppages, etc. 

A few miles distant, at Heliopolis, was a training squadron 
and throughout the day Maurice Farman machines passed over 
the school and I realised that if I were successful in 
passing this theoretical course, I would be similarly 
engaged; I endeavoured to picture my feelings when I took to 
the air for the first time. 

The course was of the usual hectic type, with years of study 
to be mastered in four weeks but at the completion I managed 
to pass the eight examinations and was duly posted to No. 21 
Squadron for instruction in the practice side of the 
business . 

I reported on a Sunday and received instructions to parade 
at 4 a.m. the following morning, for my maiden flight. I 
must confess that when I took my seat in the machine at 
dawn, I felt a bit dubious and wondered how I would feel in 
the air. The machine was fitted with dual control and I sat 
in front of my instructor. 


The machine was taken to a height of two or three thousand 
feet and after a short while, during which period we passed 
over the Pyramids and the Nile, the instructor asked me how 
I felt and instructed me to take control and fly straight; 
keep the machine from either rising or falling and, at the 
same time, steer a straight course. 

Under his direction I carried out my first lesson 
satisfactorily and my instructor again took control of the 
machine and landed. 

The author in flight uniform 

My lesson for that day was finished and after the other 
pupils had been put through their paces, the machines 
were housed in their hangars and, under the supervision 
of the mechanics, we thoroughly cleaned the planes and 
tested the cross bracing wires, tightening them when 
necessary . 


A magazine was run by the Squadron, which proved 
to be quite amusing. Everyone who crashed had a piece of 
poetry written about him and consequent chaffing 
resulted. The following are specimens - 

"Seaweed" had a pet machine 

Which no one else might fly, 

And everywhere that Seaweed went, 

He kept that Bristol nigh. 

He took her for a flight one day, 

Yes, right above the ground; 

He climbed her several thousand feet 

And flew her round and round. 

And all went well, 'till came the time, 

For him to wander home 

He brought her humming down again 

Into the aerodrome . 

Then what a sorry sight is seen, 

Upon her nose she ' s standing, . 

The which may well explain the term., 

A perfect Seaweed landing . 

(Note - An officer named Seaweed was an offender. 
Bristol was the name of a two-seater fighter) . 

A certain young pilot named Skinner, 
At flying was quite a beginner 
For he thought aeroplanes 
Could be made to leap drains 
'Till he found his mistake out, the sinner. 

Captain Riddle, R.F.C., 

Trying to land a Bumble Bee, 

Broke an undercarriage Vee 

First he blamed the E.L.C., 

Failed, he blamed the landing "T" 

That a dreadful liar he. 

O.C. Squadron said, "Let's see, 

That 's the tenth machine that he 

Has destroyed so foolishly; 

I shall recommend that he 

Be transferred to the A,S.G". 

The moral of this tale is plain 

Speak the truth and shame the devil 

If you 're sunnoned to explain, 

Always do so on the level. 


(note - Vee - shape of undercarriage. 

E.L.C. - Egyptian Labour Corps. 
A.S.C. - Army Service Corps.) 

The following day, at dawn, I again took the air and was 
instructed in doing right and left hand turns and began to 
feel more comfortable. I experienced a strong inclination, 
when the machine was banked at an angle, to keep myself 
perpendicular instead of leaning with the plane. I was 
held into my seat by a belt about eight inches in width. 
After the lesson, I took my part in cleaning the machines. 

I next received tuition in taking off and gliding down and 
landing . 

Two or three days later, my instructor took me up and 
demonstrated how to take off and land. As soon as we had 
regained earth, he said, "How do you feel?"; I replied, 
"Not too bad". "Well", he resumed, "I'm going to get out; 
take the machine up and do a circuit and landing" . 

I was unprepared for such a command, as I was by no means 
confident of my ability to handle the machine for I had 
only received two hours instruction in all. However, I 
gave a ghastly apology of a smile, swallowed hard, and 
said "Y-es". 

I gave a last desperate look round and taxied the machine 
across the aerodrome to the corner in readiness to take off 
into the wind; when in possession of the entire machine, I 
sat for a few moments with the engine ticking over, feeling 
desperately inefficient and not too optomistic when my eye 
lit upon the large motor ambulance standing by. Its motor 
running, it appeared to be gloating over the prospect of an 
early opportunity to dash across the aerodrome. Purely for 
the purpose of gathering up any of the pupils who might 
litter up the place by depositing themselves upon the 
aerodrome in an unauthorised manner. 

I opened the throttle, the machine gathered speed and, after 
a short run, left the ground. A quick glance round enabled 
me to see a group of persons interested in my welfare and I 
climbed steadily until my instrument registered a thousand 
feet . 


I looked over at the aerodrome longingly and felt rather 
overwhelmed by the knowledge that I was entirely dependant 
upon my own efforts to get down safely. After carrying on 
for a bit, I again looked over the side and suffered a jar 
when I couldn't see the aerodrome; in a mild panic I 
searched and was relieved, shortly afterwards, to find it 
still there and realised that it had simply-been covered by 
the lower plane of the machine. 

I was by this time getting some distance from home and 
rapidly approaching the Pyramids, so decided that I 
must venture upon a careful turn and get back to the 
aerodrome. I speculated as to the result of my first 
landing and whether a crash would result; however, 
during my instruction in landing, I had noted that if 
the machine passed over a certain house, situated 
behind the landing ground, at a height of five hundred 
feet, with the engine shut off, the plane would glide 
down and land in the correct place; a lower altitude 
would cause me to undershoot, whilst a higher altitude 
would not get me into the aerodrome at all. 

Bearing this in mind, I consulted my instrument and 
found that I was fifteen hundred feet up, so I 
throttled back the engine and glided down to five 
hundred feet. By that time I was off my course so, 
opening up the engine again, I decided to make another 
turn . 

Just enough bank and rudder and I was on my way again 
but in effecting the turn, although I was correctly 
over the house, I had somehow managed to get up to a 
thousand feet again. 

Another circuit of the aerodrome took place and once 
more I shut off to glide down. I was filled with 
excitement, for I could see that this time I would 
arrive over the house at the correct height but I 
rejoiced too soon. Just as I was about to glide down 
and land, an instructor's machine turned in front of me 
and I was put off and forced to make yet another 
circuit . 

Each time I went round some calculation proved to be 
faulty and I became more and more panic stricken, 
resulting in the fact that instead of making one 


circuit-and landing as instructed, I was up for thebest 
part of an hour and trying so hard 
to effect a landing. 

Nasty thoughts of petrol running out etc. passed 
through my mind and I almost wished that I had joined 
the Tank Corps instead. However, in due course I 
managed to pass over the house at the correct height 
and, in consequence, made quite a good landing and 
taxied the machine to its hangar. 

I passed the motor ambulance, with its attendants, and 
could almost picture fiendish expressions of 
disappointment at the faces of the men, as if they felt 
that they had been deliberately cheated out of their 
duty . 

I stepped out of the machine and felt rather proud of 
myself but the gilt on the gingerbread was rather taken 
off when I realised that I would have a similar ordeal to 
face on the following day. One other fellow and I were 

the first pupils to take solo flights, for we had only 
received two hours instruction in the air. 

A number of the pupils crashed on their first sole 
flights, generally in landing. It was amusing to watch the 
fellows make bad landings and to see the machines crumple 
up; the instructors words of comment were quite an 
education. It was extraordinary the number of machines 
that crashed whilst the occupants only received a shaking. 

Maurice Farman (Shorthorn) . Engine - 70h.p. Renault. 
Cruising speed - 45 mph. A specimen of the authors first machine 


I saw one machine get out of control and crash amongst some 
huts from a height of about two hundred feet. 

The ambulance reached the scene just in time for its 
attendants to witness a head and shoulders emerge from the 
wreckage and, finally, for a pupil to step out and air his 
views very strongly concerning the art of flying. Some of 
the landings were interesting to watch. When badly judged, 
the wheels of the machine would hit the ground and the 
impact would send it into the air to a height of eight or 
ten feet and after a series of bounces, which gradually 
lessened in height, the machine would finally come to rest 
with possibly only the minor damage of a broken cross- 
bracing wire. 

The pupil would then taxi the machine to the hangar and 
endeavour to slink away before coming under the eagle eye 
of his instructor but such an endeavour was usually 
fruitless., or the offender was invariably discovered and 
informed, in "useful" language, little points to be observed 
in flying, especially in the art of landing a machine. 
During breakfast, various experiences were exchanged. 

As the days passed, I became more confident and suffered no 
setbacks. One morning, whilst I was in the air, a ground 
mist suddenly came up and I completely lost my bearings and 
could not see the aerodrome. I came down as low as possible 
and suffered a shock when a minaret suddenly loomed before 
me . 

I made a sudden turn and climbed as quickly as possible; 
luckily, the mist cleared after a time and I was again able 
to discern the landing ground where flares had been placed 
for guidance. I landed and found that all the other machines 
had witnessed the approach of the mist and come down; I did 
not feel too happy over the business and was glad to be back 
on the ground. 

I spent many happy evenings at Heliopolis Hotel where 
cinema shows took place in the grounds. It was most 
pleasant to be able to sit in the open at small tables and 
watch the pictures whilst sipping cooling drinks. 
In due course, I completed the requisite number of hours 
flight on the Maurice Farman machine and was posted to 
another squadron at Aboukir, a few miles from 
Alexandria, for instruction in other machines. 


I reported to the adjutant and was instructed to attend 
at No. 22 Squadron the following day for training in 
flying Avro machines. I was quartered with other 
officers, in a hut situated on the fringe of the 
aerodrome. There were two or three training squadrons at 
Aboukir and a hundred or so officers were undergoing 
instruction. A huge stone built mess was provided in 
which we took our meals and a large lounge which 
possessed a piano added to our comfort. 

Flying commenced at dawn and continued until about 

II a.m; the heat then being severe, flying was discontinued 
until 4 p.m., for conditions in the air made flying very 
bumpy and unsafe for beginners. 

The following morning, I reported to my flight 
commander and was taken up for my first lesson in the 
new machine, which was extremely light and answered to 
its controls immediately; a far more delicate machine 
which necessitated light handling of its controls. 
After practice, I took my part in cleaning the 
machines with hot water and soap; for the lubricating 
oil had splashed the wings and fuselages. 

Aboukir was situated on the coast and the aerodrome 
adjoined the beach. The railway ran from Alexandria 
through the depot and special military passes were issued 
to enable us to pass the control post which was manned by 
an officer, non-commissioned officer and men. 

In the evening, I went into Alexandria and was pleased 
with the town which possessed theatres, cinemas, and a 
nice skating rink. I preferred the town to Cairo. 

The following day my tuition progressed until, 
one day, a somewhat heated altercation took place between my 
instructor (a captain) and myself. I must mention that this 
instructor was much disliked by reason of his of f iciousness 
and when in the air, he rarely gave instruction, in right 
hand turns, as he disliked them on account of the tendency 
of the machine to drop its nose through the torque of the 
propeller drawing it down. 


We had just landed, after a circuit, and although the 
machine was fitted with dual controls, yet I was concious of 
the fact that I had not been allowed freedom of manoeuvre, 
for he kept a most rigid check on all my movements. I felt 
that I had taken no part in the flight and a conversation, 
similar to the following, took place - 


"Well, you can take the machine up, alone" 
Myself . 

"I don't feel confident yet" 

"What do you mean; you have just complete the circuit and 
landed the machine yourself." 
Myself . 

"I did no such thing" 

"Get out of the machine and come to my orderly room" 
The conversation was then resumed in the Orderly Room. 

"And so you refuse to go up?" 
Myself . 

"Yes; I'm not going to break my neck for you or anybody 


"What do you mean?" 
Myself . 

"You have never let me have complete control of the machine 

but have flown it yourself". 


"You carried out the flight entirely on your own" 
Myself . 

"I suppose I executed the steep turns over the hangars, 
which got us into the aerodrome well, all I can say is that 
the machine is a remarkable one, for all the time those 
turns were taking place and the machine was gliding down to 
land, you state that you were not taking any part in the 
evolutions and feeling that I was only a passenger, I had 
removed my hands and feet from the controls and so 
apparently neither of us was flying the machine. It would, 
therefore, appear that no pilot is necessary for this type 
of machine, since it apparently takes off, flies round, and 
lands itself". 


Instructor . 

"I'll give you another chance. We will do another circuit 
and landing tomorrow and if you don't then go alone, I 
shall report the matter to the Squadron Commander". 
Myself . 

"If I do then feel-confident., I will undertake a solo 

The following morning he allowed me to fly the machine 
without interfering too much and I agreed to take up the 
plane alone and managed a flight of forty minutes and 
accomplished a good landing. 

In the evenings, I generally adjourned to the roller 
skating rink in Alexandria and spent many enjoyable 
times . 

I progressed fairly well with my flying of this particular 
machine, until one morning I received a setback. I took off 
and flew straight until my instrument denoted that I had 
reached a height of six hundred feet and then decided to 
make my first turn. 

Whilst steeply banked, the spring of an inlet valve of the 
engine broke and a flash of flame came from the engine, 
which was a rotary one called the "Gnome" and reputed to 
possess a weakness because the inlet valve springs often 
broke and the danger of fire could not be ignored. The 
trouble occurred, in this instance, whilst the machine was 
in the middle of a steeply banked turn and flying speed was 
lost; before I had an opportunity to rectify things, the 
machine plunged down in a spinning nosedive. 

I gathered speed quickly as the earth appeared to rush 
towards me; the spinning of the plane intensified and some 
Arabs on camels, who were passing along the fringe of the 
aerodrome, appeared to be wizzing round in circles. 

I grasped the sides of the fuselage set my teeth, and 
prepared to await the crash into the ground; I became more 
and more confused and the rapid spinning made me feel 
extremely sick and giddy and a hazy mist appeared before my 
eyes . 


I seemed to be falling for hours but curiously enough, 
no thoughts of being killed entered my head, although 
I vaguely wondered what sort of condition the machine 
and I would be in after we had embraced mother earth. 
I must have become only semi-consious, for I was 
brought back to reality by a terrific bump and a 
scrunch of breaking wood. 

I opened my eyes and found myself surrounded by 
wreckage and sat for a moment, contemplating the 
situation. My first thought was that I had arrived 
apparently unhurt; I endeavoured to get out of the 
remains but found that my legs were fixed and 
interlaced in broken struts I managed to force the 
struts apart and crawled out on my hands and knees. 

I lit a cigarette and surveyed my latest effort and 
noted that the machine was smashed to pieces, the 
engine partly buried in the ground, and the petrol 
tank in a collapsed state; the petrol had spread 
itself over a large area of ground and I was puzzled, 
to understand why it hadn't caught fire. 

I had crashed behind a small hillock on the fringe of 
the aerodrome and could not be seen from the hangars 
where the rest of the pupils, not flying, had hastened 
and closed their eyes so that they would not witness an 
accident which could apparently, only result in a 
fatality . 

In the midst of my preoccupation' I was disturbed by the 
appearance of a mechanic who suddenly rounded the hillock 
and looked agape at me with a white face. I asked him if 
he was any good at puzzles and if so to put the pieces 
surrounding me together again. 

A scamper of feet proclaimed the arrival of the Flight 
Commander, and others, who shouted out - "Are you 
alright?". I answered in the affirmative and apologised 
for the destruction of the machine. He consigned the plane 
to perdition and said that as long as I was 
safe, the machine could go to blazes. I suggested I be 
loaned another so that I could go up again but, with a 
smile, he refused. A motor ambulance and doctor had now 
arrived and I was requested to lie on a stretcher and be 
conveyed to the dressing station. 


I was emphatic in my refusal to take a ride in so 
depressing a vehicle and stated that I required no 
medical attention. 

It was thereupon pointed out that my lip and knee were 
badly cut whilst my arm was bruised from wrist to 
shoulder and was turning green and yellow; I had not 
noticed the damages during the excitement. 

I consented to go to the dressing station on a motor 
tender and had my minor injuries dressed; I then 
proceeded to the mess where I enjoyed a stiff drink and 
entertained the fellows with popular tunes on the piano. 
I was afterwards informed that my escape had been 
miraculous and that nobody had expected me to survive 
such a crash; every cylinder in the engine of the 
machine had been smashed and the body was a total wreck. 

For the next few days I was excused flying duty and 
occupied my time in attending practice in artillery 
co-operation, wireless, etc., reporting at intervals 
to the Medical Officer for dressings and attention. On 
being questioned by him as to how I felt generally, I 
informed him that I was fairly fit but that the noise 
of the machines passing over my hut 

in some curious manner, seemed to get on my nerves in no 
uncertain fashion. 

He stated that, in the circumstances this was quite 
understandable and suggested that a short spell in hospital, 
away from present surroundings, would soon put me right. I 
agreed, and after collecting my kit, was taken by motor 
ambulance to Ras-el-tin Hospital in Alexandria, where I 
stayed for two weeks. 


The first person I met in hospital, strangely enough, was 
Dr Ives who had lived near to me in Southampton and whom I 
had known . 

After the usual greetings, he naturally desired to know the 
reason for my being there and when I informed him that I 
had recently crashed from a height of six hundred feet; he 
instructed me to lie on the bed whilst he overhauled me, 
after which he told me that there couldn't be much wrong 
with my heart since it showed no apparent ill effects of 
overstrain, the only thing not normal being my pulse which 
was rather more rapid than it should have been. 

Another coincidence, he informed me, was the fact that the 
bed I was to occupy had only that morning been vacated by 
Lieutenant Stevenson, another Southampton man and a brother 
officer from my late regiment whom I had left at Gaza when 
transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. 

The hospital, which was a part of Ras-el-tin Palace, 
was a most comfortable one and possessed quite a nice 
dining room and lounge. The food was excellent and at 
dinner we were allowed alcholic drinks. 

I soon settled down to enjoy two weeks of rest 
and each day I spent in Alexandria seeing the sights. We 
had to be back in hospital for seven o'clock dinner, which 
proved to be a handicap as we were prevented, thereby, 
from attending evening performances of the theatres and 
cinemas . 


The time passed most enjoyably and, in due course, I 
returned to Aboukir feeling quite refreshed and eager to 
continue flying. 

I was, however, unable to resume until I was passed as fit 
by a medical board and so had to fill in the tire by 
attending lectures and practices on the ground. After some 
days, I duly presented myself before a board for 
inspection and after being overhauled and questioned, was 
informed that I would be required to attend a further 
inspection at a later date before resuming flying. 

My studies on the ground were resumed and as the board 
would not be called upon to meet again for a week or two, 
I was instructed to proceed to Heliopolis again and report 
to the Adjutant of the School of Aerial Gunnery. 
I packed my kit and duly commenced this new course, which 
consisted of practical firing tests with Vickers and Lewis 
guns. A musketry range was situated quite close to the 
aerodrome and duly we carried out our tests. 

One one occasion, I was standing and waiting for my turn 
for gun practice when, looking into the air, I discerned 
a machine performing various evolutions at a height of 
about two thousand feet. I was interested in the various 
stunts and horrified when a wing became detached as the 
machine came out of a loop into a steep dive. The machine 
burst into flares and the pilot, who jumped out, turned 
over and over in a cartwheel fashion as he fell to earth. 

All firing practice stopped as we witnessed the tragedy 
and heard the roar of the flames as the machine hurtled 
earthwards. A gloom fell upon us, for we were all budding 
pilots and the incident impressed upon us at least one 
calamity to be feared, viz. fire in the air. 

Our exercises completed, we returned to the aerodrome 
where the machine had hit the ground and found that the 
propeller was still burning and the metal of the engine 
in a molten state. We learned that an experienced pilot 
had come down from the line to fetch the machine and that 
he had taken it up to test it before flying it back. It 
transpired that this particular class of machine was a 
Martinside, which possessed a tail of frail structure, 
and the officer had, contrary to orders, looped; in 
consequence, the tail had twisted off. 


I learned the lesson 
future, endeavour to 
whose specifications 

and vowed 
carry out 

that I would not, in the 
stunts in any machine 
such evolutions. 

Daily we were taken up in machines as observers in order 
to carry out gun practice. On those occasions I occupied 
the passenger seat in front and, armed with drums of Lewis 
gun ammunition, was flown at a height of a few hundred 
feet to the ground targets situated on the desert; we 
dived on the targets whilst I carried 
out the firing tests. Part II. of the course was 
that of aerial fighting. 

Once again I was taken up in the passenger seat but this 
time, was armed with a camera. 

This was a Lewis gun fitted with a roll of photographic 
film, , instead of an ammunition drum, and possessing the 
usual wind vane sights used in the air; another pupil was 
similarly situated in a second each and, at a height of 
some two thousand feet, we manoeveured around each other 
for a favourable position and fired our guns; each time 
the trigger was pressed, a photograph was taken. After 
landing, the films were developed and the results of the 
tests proclaimed. 

Effectively firing a gun at another machine in the 
air, was not such a simple matter as would at 
appear. T speed of travelling, the angle of flight, 
and allowances for aiming in front so as to hit an 
opposing machine, "all had to be taken into 
consideration". However, I satisfactorily passed my 
various tests and once again returned to Aboukir, 
where I continued ground practices for a few days 
and, after successfully fulfilling the requirements 
of the Medical Board, was allowed to continue my 
flying instruction in the Avro, which machine had 
previously been, the cause of my crash. 

One morning, I again reported to the much loved Flight 
Commander, whose expression, on seeing me, seemed to 
bear that of extreme disappointment at my having 
survived from the recent speedy return to earth from the 
air. After a few cheerful remarks, he said that he would 
take me up for a circuit and landing and then I could go 
alone and finish my time of this particular class of 
machine . 


Only those who have crashed from a height would realise 
the extremely uncomfortable feeling that can arise at 
the prospect of having to again take the air in a 
similar machine and as I had only a half an hour to do 
to complete my time, I was anxious to carry out a flight 
and pass on to the next squadron. I duly took off, on a 
hot day, and quickly realised that conditions in the air 
were decidedly bumpy and, added to that, I had the 
additional difficulty of having to land over the hangars 
and just clear them in order to get into the aerodrome; 
this was occasioned by reason of the direction in which 
the wind was blowing. 

I quickly rose to a height of six hundred feet and 
wondered whether I would experience engine trouble, as I 
did not desire a repetition of the previous mishap. With 
great trepedation I banked and took the first turn 
which, with relief, I negotiated safely and, on 
consulting my watch, I found that I had exactly half an 
hour to while away and decided that the period would not 
be exceeded if I could help it. 

Having successfully staggered round the circuit 

and finding that only three minutes were now to elapse, 

I decided to glide down and land. As already explained, this 

type of machine possessed a rotary engine which was fed by 

the regulation of the flow of petrol and it had to be 

"buzzed" whilst gliding down by periodically moving forward 

the ignition lever and so keep the propeller ticking over 

and the engine from choking. 

I glided down and when just over the roof of the hangar, the 
engine, to my intense dismay and annoyance, suddenly opened 
out again although switched off and before I knew where I 
was, the machine again rose and I was forced to make another 
circuit . 

Two or three times this occurred and each time I endeavoured 
to land, the engine started off again on its own. I began to 
think that a deliberate effort on the part of Fate was in 
progress to prevent my getting down safely and I was afraid, 
in my inexperience, to cut off the petrol supply in case I 
should misjudge my glide into the aerodrome, undershoot, and 
be unable to put on the engine again. 


As I got more anxious each circuit I was forced to make, so 
my flying became more erratic and the handling of the 
machine less confident but in due course the engine behaved 
itself just long enough for me to glide down and land at the 
opposite end of the aerodrome to the hangars and the engine 
immediately stopped. I thankfully got out of the 
machine, lit a cigarette, and heaved a sigh of relief. 

I consulted my watch and found that I had been in the 
air for about an hour. I decided once and for all 
to finish with that class of machine and vowed that 
I would have nothing further to do with it. If 
practicable, I would have kicked it round the aerodrome. 

My "friend", the Flight Commander, had apparently seen 
me land and as the engine was stopped and I could not 
taxi the machine to its hangar, he strolled across and 
I prepared myself for a pleasant reception. The 
conversation was similar to the following - 


"Well, you're down then; taxi in the machine" 
Myself . 

"No fear; you can taxi it in yourself". 
"what's the idea?" 
Myself . 

"I've finished with the rotten thing; the switch is short- 
circuiting and I had the devil ' s own trouble to get down" 

"Why didn't you cut off your petrol?" 
Myself . 

"I dared not in case I should undershoot the aerodrome; if 
I had, and been unable to put on the engine again, I would 
have crashed into the hangars". 

"Oh, alright; turn the propeller and start the engine and 
I'll taxi it and will see you in the Orderly Room. 

(later in the Orderly Room) 


"Well, you've finished your time on these machines and I've 
signed your papers. You will now be transferred to No. 23 
Squadron for flying practice on other machines; however, 
you'll break your neck in a very short while". 


Myself . 

"I'm delighted to shake the dust of this Flight off my feet 
and if I do break my neck, you won't have to worry about it" 

My hatred for this type of machine was by now confirmed 
and I looked forward to the transfer with great eagerness. 

The following morning, I reported to the new squadron, 
where I was to fly BE2C. and BE2E. machines (British 
Experimental) . I progressed admirably and found not the 
slightest difficulty in manipulating these machines. 

Flying commenced at dawn each day and continued until 11 
a.m. when it finished until recommencement at 4 p.m. and 
continued until dark. Several of the pupils had been 
unable to master flying and, in consequence, were now 
training as Observers. Periodically my turn as Squadron 
Orderly Officer came along and the duties were similar 
of those of the Infantry but with the addition of 
inspecting the hangars to ensure that they were securely 
locked at night; I had to transfer my camp bed to the 
Orderly room and sleep there, and inspect the sentries 
between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. 

Splendid weather was now enjoyed which resembled the hot 
Summer days in England. Around the aerodromes were many 
date palms and the dates hung in large clusters at the 
tops, well out of reach; we were supplied with luscious 
specimens for dessert at practically each meal. 

On very windy days, no flying was permitted as it would 
prove risky to inexperienced pilots; handling a machine 
under such conditions was uncomfortable, for it was 
tossed about like a boat on a choppy sea. 

On these occasions, studies were confined to ground work. 

One morning, I carried out a cross country test. I was 
given a position on a map and instructed to fly across 
country, find a certain railway station, make a sketch 
of it from the air and put in all the points of military 
importance viz. number and kind of trains, whether under 
steam, direction pointing, passenger or goods, closed-or 
open, empty or full, etc. 

The depot now possessed its own cinema, which portrayed 

the latest films which were hired in Alexandria, and the men 

enjoyed good performances which were changed twice weekly, 


at a charge just sufficient to cover expenses. As the 
forming of an orchestra was out of the question, I was 
approached and deputed to improvise on a piano for about two 
hours and a half at each performance. 

December . 

I received a copy of the Gazette and thereby learned that 
I could now hoist another pip on my shoulder and carry 
the rank of Lieutenant. 

Most evenings, when not playing at the cinema, I 
spent in Alexandria, either attending shows or, 
exercising myself on the roller skating rink. 

It was difficult to realise the reported shortage of food in 
England, for all the shops in Alexandria possessed an 
abundance of everything. 

I was very pleased indeed to receive a cablegram from my 
parents expressing good wishes for my birthday. 

A further cross country flight to another aerodrome took 
place and another officer and I set off together but I lost 
sight of him as soon as we were in the air. I successfully 
reached my destination just in time for breakfast and after 
replenishing the inner man and having a chat with some old 
friends, I flew back to the aerodrome and so completed 
another test. 

Some time elapsed and there was no sign of the return of 
the other officer and so two instructors set off in 
machines loaded with cans of petrol to search for the 
missing machine. 

In due course they returned with the wanderer and it 
transpired that the pupil pilot had missed his way and 
continued across the desert until forced to land near a 
small village through his petrol running out; the machine 
was duly replenished with petrol and flown to the 
aerodrome . 

On one occasion, whilst in Alexandria, I visited the 
Records Office with a view to ascertaining how my late 
battalion was faring at Gaza and was grieved to learn that 
both my friends, Cameron and Vize, had been killed. 


These were the two officers who had accompanied me to 
India with the draft and Cameron had served with me in 
France. Added to this, I was informed that in a recent 
advance my platoon (commanded by the Sergeant since I had 
left) had been deputed to assault a strong post and had 
been wiped out. I realised that had I remained with the 
battalion that I would have been in charge of the platoon 
and probably have come to grief with the rest. 

Lieutenant Stevenson, whose bed I had occupied when placed 
in the care of Dr Ives in Ras-el-tin Hospital, had also 
been killed. 

At the depot we had periodical visits from Regimental 
Concert Parties, whose performances were excellent and 
the casts often included peace time professional 
artists. One party was named "The Defaulters". 

I visited, in hospital, an officer from my late battalion 
and he gave me particulars regarding poor Cameron's fate. 
It transpired that one of the men in his company had been 
wounded and Cameron went out to bandage him and whilst 
occupied, an enemy machinegun suddenly opened fire and 
riddled him with bullets. 

I concluded the altitude test which necessitated flying the 
machine to a height of ten thousand feet, switching off the 
engine and spiralling down and landing. 

It was very cold in the early mornings and during the 
nights and when flying at those times, we donned 
lined leather coats and gloves and wore sheeps wool 
lined boots . 

One morning, at. about 8 a,m., whilst in my hut I 
heard the noise of a crash just outside. I called to 
my companion and we rushed outside and found a machine 
blazing. The heat from it was terrific and we could not 
get very close; we frantically threw sand over it and 
finally managed to get the flames sufficiently under 
control to drag out the pupil who was so terribly 
burnt that he died almost immediately. 

He was a fellow named Perry and had nose dived into 
the ground from a height of only about a hundred feet. 
I was about to make a flight in a similar machine and 
did not feel too cheery after witnessing the tragedy. 


Curiously enough, exactly two weeks later another man 
also named Perry, met with a fatal accident. 

Daily, the machines were piled up on the aerodrome, some 
of the accidents being fatal whilst others were only 
minor ones, such as were caused by faulty landings, etc. 
On one occasion, a fellow fell out of, his machine and 
it could only be surmised that he had looped and omitted 
to do up his safety belt. 

Another pupil landed on the roof of a hangar, in which 
the engine of the machine buried its nose and remained 
in nearly a perpendicular position; the pilot was 
unhurt . 

The first day that I reported at Aboukir, I witnessed a 
disturbing calamity which, at that time, did not enhance 
my idea of aviation. A machine, containing an instructor 
and pupil, took off from the aerodrome and collided with 
another plane carrying two men; after the machines had 
become interlocked, they crashed to the ground. Three of 
the occupants were killed and the remaining one 
badly knocked about; one of the victims had travelled 
down with me from Gaza to join the Flying Corps. 

On Christmas Eve, two friends and I visited the Alhambra 
Theatre in Alexandria and enjoyed a really fine performance 
by an English touring party called "The Scamps". 

On Christmas Day, a brother officer and I visited an 
Italian family by the name of Castravelli. The good folks 
consisting of Father, Mother and Daughters, had prepared A 
splendid time for us and a real Xmas spread was placed 
before us. We enjoyed games and music and after tea, the 
family and we set out for another house where a large 
family party was in progress and a further Christmas 
dinner had been provided for our reception, including 
wines etc. After a real festive time, my brother officer 
and I left at about midnight and returned to the aerodrome 
by taxi . 

On Boxing Day I, stayed in camp and improvised on the 
piano in the evening during the cinema performance. 
Flying practices were carried out on Christmas but, 
fortunately, it poured with rain on Christmas and Boxing 
Days and flying orders were cancelled. 


Turning over in my mind previous Christmasses, I realised 
that 1914 I had spent in Bedford, 1915 in France, 1916 in 
India and now, 1917 in Egypt. 

My next tests were successfully passed. I had to fly in 
formation with other machines and then carry out the 
photography test. The latter was rather difficult to a 
novice, as he had all his work cut out to fly the machine 
without the added difficulty of taking photographs. 
A map was handed to the pupil upon which were marked twelve 
points which were situated miles apart. He had to fly by 
the map, pick out each point and, as it was located, 
photograph it from a height of about a thousand feet. A 
camera was loaded with plates and fixed to the machine and 
the pulling of a string dropped each plate after a 
photograph was taken, and set the shutter in readiness for 
the next exposure. 

Fixed perpendicularly to the outside of the fuselage was a 
long metal tube, through which the pilot sighted and it 
possessed cross wires at each end. 

The machine had to be flown over the position to be 
photographed and the pilot looking down the tube, waited 
until the cross wires were in line with the object; the 
string of the camera was pulled and the photograph taken. 
Care had to be observed that the machine was flown directly 
into the wind, otherwise in approaching the object, drift 
was experienced and instead of the plane passing right 
over, it would leave the object on its flank. 

Generally several attempts had to be made before the sights 
of the tube could be brought into direct line with the 
object and the novice often allowed his machine to turn or 
bank whilst concentrated upon his test. He thereby found it 
impossible to photograph the object. 

The next test was that of bomb dropping. 

This was carried, out by means of a camera obscure, in which 
the instructors sat and watched the course of the machine 
undergoing the test. The pilot, once again flying dead into 
wind, utilized his bomb sight which had beer adjusted to 
requirements, height, wind velocity, speed of machine, etc. 
having been taken into consideration. 


Then over the camera obscura the pilot wirelessed down a 
letter "T" (a dash in morse) , and after five seconds, sent 
another "T"; the instructors were then able to denote 
whether a bomb would have dropped on the object. I had to 
have two attempts at this test before passing 
satisfactorily . 

In my spare time, I often wandered about the coast 
and, on occasions, found old coins and pieces of 
pottery . 

We received the disturbing information that all our 
Christmas mails had gone to the bottom of the sea as 
the ship on which they were being conveyed had been 
torpedoed . 

Having now flown these types of machines for some 
hours, I was quite confident in their manipulation and 
rarely went up without taking a passenger with me who 
was anxious to joyride. Many officers and cadets who 
were commencing their training as pilots, were only 
too eager to go up. On one day I had good fun. A 
Canadian officer, who had not yet been in the air, had 
boasted that he could not be in any way disturbed by 
any evolutions that might be made. 

Hearing of this, I casually asked him if he would care 
to go up with me for a short flit. He readily 
consented and I took off and rose to about two 
thousand feet; I shut off the engine and turned to my 
passenger and enquired whether his safety belt was 
securely fastened. 

To my surprise, he looked at me with a rather 
uncertain expression and replied that he was safely 
strapped in. I put on the engine again, dived steeply 
and looped. Resuming straight flying, I stalled and 
allowed the machine to go into a spinning nosedive. I 
again glanced at my passenger's expression and noticed 
that he had turned a bit white and looked by no means 
comfortable . 

After doing a few cartwheels in succession, I glided 
down and landed. We stepped from the machine and I 
noticed that the Canadian looked none too confident; 
he did not again venture the remark that he could not 
be disturbed by stunt flying. 


The final test was duly carried out, that of Artillery 
Co-operation. A short distance from the depot a dummy 
battery of guns was stationed and at a position in tie 
far corner of the aerodrome, was an object upon which 
imaginary artillery fire was to be directed. Ghese 
positions were marked on the map carried by the pilot 
undergoing the test. All messages were carried out in 
code and sent from the air by wireless in morse. 

As soon as the machine had reached its requisite height, 
when the pilot had located the target, he wirelessed to 
the battery, whilst flying towards it ' "Are you receiving 
my signals?" and waited for a ground signal to be exposed 
in answer. 

These ground strips were made of white linen and positioned 
to represent various letters viz. "L2 might mean "Yes" or 
"K", "No"- and soforth. Under service conditions, a pilot 
when patrolling a certain sector of the front, would 
possibly spot a target (such as a battery of guns, moving 
troops, etc.) upon which he desired to direct suitable 
artillery fire. Each of the batteries of our artillery 
possessed its own code calling up sign, e.g. 60 pounder 
battery might be "B.E.", a six inch howitzer battery, 
"R.N.", etc. and according to the type of gun it was 
desired to engage, so the pilot would utilise the necessary 
code letters to call up the requisite battery. 

In addition to this, each machine had its code number so 
that the battery would know the flight carrying out the 
shoot. As soon as the pilot had received the signal that 
his own signals were being received, he wirelessed the 
position of the target, which he had worked out from his 
map, and this message he repeated and followed it up with 
the coded question - "Are you ready to fire?". An example 
of the routine is as follows (ficticious code letters are 
used) - 


Battery Code 




Are you receiving my signals 

Answer - ground strip, letter "L2" - Yes 



Battery Code 




Position of target P64L39 

This last message is repeated and followed by 
"Are you ready to fire?" - "M" 

The complete message - ABlRNP 64L3 9M 
Battery answer - L. 

The shoot then commenced. The pilot flew towards the 
battery and wirelessed the order to fire, turned and 
flew towards the target to observe the burst of the 
exploding shell. His next duty was to send down the 
correction, preceeding this with the code prefixes. For 
the purpose of such correction, an imaginary clock face 
was, drawn round the target, with twelve o'clock due 
North, calculated by reference to the machine's compass. 

Imaginary circles were pictured at various distances 
from the centre, viz. first ring 50 yards, second one, a 
hundred yards, third two hundred and fifty yards, etc 
and called A.,B. and C, etc; the position of a bursting 
shell was calculated thereby. For instance, a shell 
exploding fifty yards North of the target would receive 
a correction 12A, or if to the east, 3A, and a pilot 
sending a complete correction, including code prefixes, 
would transmit AB1RNL2A. 

When the burst had been observed, the pilot turned the 
machine, flew towards the battery whilst the correction was 
wirelessed, and repeated the order to fire; this continued 
until a direct hit was obtained. 

At times, the pilot was called upon to carry out 
a shoot with two batteries upon different targets, which 
duty was by no means an easy one; the bursts of two lots 
of shells had to be observed and corrections sent down 
with the code prefixes of the various batteries being 
utilized. During such operations, the pilot was 
generally subjected to anti-aircraft fire from enemy guns 
and in addition, had to be prepared to resist an attack 
by enemy machines. 

My test, under practice conditions, having been successfully 
passed, I was now transferred for experience in flying 
R.E.8. machines (Reconnaissance Experimental), which when 


loaded, weighed about two tons. I liked these planes and 
took every opportunity of flying them, especially in the 
evenings when, with a passenger, I would often ascend and 
witness the setting of the sun. Flying in the evening, when 
the sun was going down, was ideal; all was peace in the air 
and not a bump disturbed the flight which resembled the 
gliding of a boat on a lake. 

I continued my flying of these machines for several days 
and, on one occasion, received instructions to take up the 
Squadron Photographer to a height of 12,000 feet so that he 
could photograph the depot. This he did and an enlargement 
brought out every little detail, which spoke volumes for 
the wonderful camera lens . 

About this time, I heard of the death of Lieutenant 
Beddy, who left the Hampshire Regiment at Gaza in 
order to transfer to the Flying Corps; he had been 
killed in a crash. His transfer took place at the same 
time as my own and his demise rather forcibly brought 
home to me the fact that any connection with me seemed 
to have fatal results, for Gyatt who joined the 
Seaforths with me and proceeded to France, was dead, 
whilst both Cameron and Vize, the officers who 
accompanied me in India to join the Hampshire 
Regiment, had also been killed. 

I now completed my training and awaited notification 
that I was considered to be a qualified pilot and could 
have the much coveted wings sewn upon my tunic. Usually 
a newly qualified pilot was allowed several weeks flying 
at the base in order to gain further experience before 
being posted to a service squadron. 

One morning, much to my consternation, an orderly 
approached me and stated that my presence was required 
in the Orderly Room. I rather wondered how or when I had 
transgressed and hurried into the presence of the 
Squadron Commander, where a conversation similar to the 
following took place - 

Commander . 

"I want you to hurriedly pack your kit and proceed to 
No. 14 Squadron which is on service in Palestine. I am 
very pleased with your reports and as several casualties 
have recently occurred, I am eager you catch a train 
which leaves in two hours time". 


Myself . 

"But I haven't received my wings" 
Commander . 

"Never mind. I'll sign your pass out certificate and you 
can sew your wings on your tunic when you get in the 
train" . 

To be perfectly candid, I rather wished that I not 
progressed in my flying quite so satisfactorily, for I 
had rather hoped to have had a few weeks extra 
experience before taking an active part with a service 
squadron . 

However, having no say in the matter, I duly boarded the 
train and whilst happily sewing on my wings, dubiously 
pondered on the likely results upon the war by the entry 
of my humble self, suffering from no inconsiderable 
inferiority complex in so far as this particular branch 
of the service was concerned; in other words, what would 
my future squadron think of my efforts?. 

I broke my journey at Kantara, slept the night at the 
Y.M.C.A quarters and, the following day, attended a 
performance in a rough and ready cinema. Resuming my 
journey, I found it most interesting, for since I had 
left Gaza, our troops had advanced into Palestine; the 
railway had been laid and I passed through Gaza and over 
the actual ground where I had taken part in the 
successful raid upon the Turkish trenches. 

I was disappointed in Gaza itself but liked the country 
further on. I duly arrived at Ramleh and reported at Wing 
Headquarters, stayed for lunch and continued the journey 
by motor tender to No. 14 Squadron. I was enabled to 
enjoy luscious oranges obtained from the orange groves 
nearby . 

The aerodrome was situated near to the Mount of Olives 
and not very many miles from Jerusalem. The 
personnel were quartered in bell tents which each 
possessed an electric light, the current for which was 
generated by the motor workshop lorry. A large tent was 
used as a mess and lounge and arrangements were 
comfortable; a gramaphone played merrily as I entered and 
pilots and observers sat around, either talking or 
reading and sipping drinks. 


I very soon made myself at home and found the Squadron 
Commander and the rest of the fellows excellent 
companions who greeted me in a most encouraging manner. 

The machines used were of the B.E. and R.E.8. types, 
which I considered would cause me little difficulty in 
handling, as I had enjoyed flying them under training 
conditions . 

Things were very quiet on the front, for the advance had 
been completed for the time being and the Squadron had 
lapsed into its ordinary routine work of artillery co- 
operation, photography, and occasional bombing 
expeditions. Certain duties of flying were allotted and 
when performed, pilots and observers travelled, in turn, 
on the motor tender to Jerusalem, for relaxation and to 
make purchases. 

As this Squadron was known as a bombing and reconnaissance 
one, it was not expected to engage enemy aircraft in 
fights, for the machines were heavy, slow, and not 
constructed for quick manoeuvre; other squadrons of swift 
single seater scouts protected our machines from surprise 
whilst engaged upon their duties. 

I soon settled down in my new surroundings and made some 
good friends. 

Until fairly recently, the enemy had exercised 
superiority in the air by possessing machines far 
more efficient and speedy in manoeuvre than ours 
and, in consequence, our losses had been rather 
disturbing, for whenever one of our planes had flown 
over the enemy lines on observation work, it had 
been attacked and when the pilot had managed to get 
back to the aerodrome without being shot down he 
considered himself fortunate; in such cases, he had 
to put up a running fight . 

A squadron situated near to us recently became 
possessed of a number of up-to-date Bristol two- 
seater fighters, which each possessed a 350 h.p. 
Rolls-Royce engine. These machines were very speedy 
and capable of quick manoeuvre and one of the pilots 
(with an observer) decided to set a trap for an enemy 
machine . 


It must be explained that this type of machine 
somewhat resembled that of the slow B.B, type, when 
in the air, and as the enemy had no knowledge of our 
recent welcome acquisition of the fast Bristol, the 
pilot took off and throttled back the engine 
sufficiently to permit the machine to fly level at 
its slowest speed. 

He flew up and down over the lines and, sure enough, am 
enemy two-seater "Albatros" soon spotted him and, 
thinking that another slow B.E. was to be an easy 
victim, flew in the direction of the British machine 
with a view to diving upon it and shooting it down 
in flames. 

The pilot of the Bristol saw the enemy coming but did 
not deviate from his course and so allowed him to 
approach as near as possible compatib with safety. He 
then opened his engine to its fullest, dived, looped, 
and completed a circle which brought him on to the tail 
of his enemy and in an admirable position for opening 
fire. The enemy pilot and observer were amazed, they had 
no idea that such an efficient machine operated on the 
front and they did their utmost to shake the pursuer off 
their tail by executing every manoeuvre known to them, 
but without avail. 

The pilot of the Bristol made no attempt to open fire 
with his machineguns but was content to enjoy the 
discomfiture of his enemy who, now thoroughly scared, 
shut off his engine, glided down, landed on our 
aerodrome, and surrendered without even putting up a 
fight. The Bristol landed by its side and the pilot 
censured the enemy, in very strong language, for not 
having the courage to make any show of a fight. 
The captured machine was duly flown back to Cairo by one 
of our pilots. 

The daily duties consisted, for the time being, of 
reconniaissance and photography, and the hours of flying 
were not heavy as no advance was taking place. A pilot was 
not called upon to do more than three hour flight a day and 
the machines took their turn, the first one taking off just 
as dawn was breaking. 

It was a wonderful sight to see the sun rise whilst 
engaged upon these early patrols. 


When a reconnaissance flight commenced at 4.30 a.m., 
the pilot was back and had landed on the aerodrome by 
7.30 a.m., and after writing his report, during the 
quiet times, was finished for the day unless an 
unforeseen further duty was ordered. On these 
occasions, some pilots when awakened by their batmen 
and handed early morning cups of tea, would don 
cardigans and leather flying coats over their 
pyjamas, pull on their long flying boots, carry out 
the patrol flight, and then return to bed. 

When taking off, the machines had to rise to two 
thousand feet before leaving the aerodrome and climb 
as they passed over the high hills in enemy country; 
on the tops of the hills were posted machineguns which 
could prove troublesome. 

One of the machines, whilst returning from a patrol, 
encountered a thick mist and, in descending to find 
direction, collided with the top of the Mount of Olives 
and the plane wrecked and both pilot and observer 

On certain days, when it had poured with rain, 
considerable difficulty was experienced in getting the 
machines to rise from the sticky aerodrome and after 
taking the longest run permitted by the size of the 
aerodrome, they had to be literally heaved off the 
ground . 

Nothing of special interest occurred and the daily 
routine flights over the Jerusalem district and the 
enemy country took place. 

I had unfortunately only been with the Squadron for 
a week or two when I contracted a rather bad attack 
of Psoriasis of the scalp and, upon consulting the 
Squadron medical officer, whom I had asked to 
supply me with suitable ointment, was informed that 
his limited medical supplies would not permit him 
to complete treatment of the complaint. 

In consequence I would have to be sent down the 
line. I expressed my unwillingness to leave and 
stated that I would prefer to leave the matter 
over; however, presumably, he spoke to the Squadron 
Commander about the matter and he, in turn, 


summoned me to his tent and after a chat, strongly 
advised me not to neglect the trouble but to go 
down the line and receive expert attention. 

The present service conditions experienced, in 
comparison with those of an infantry officer in the 
line, presented an extraordinary difference, in as much 
as the latter 's daily routine was a matter of grim 
warfare only, whereas the former's conditions afforded 
considerable opportunities for relaxation and something 
approaching more comfortable amenities of existence. 
Once again I packed my kit and duly reported at a field 
hospital a few miles from the aerodrome. Here I stayed for 
one night and the next day left, in a hospital train, with 
my head covered in ointment and enveloped in bandages. I 
travelled for a considerable number of miles until I reached 
El Arish and there entered the Military Hospital. 

This time my head was lathered and shaved, more ointment 
applied and further bandages. I stayed here for several days 
during which time I enjoyed several concert party 
performances and as no progress was evidenced, I again 
packed and was despatched by train to Kwatara where I 
entered another hospital. Once again my head was shaved and 
a different treatment tried but no improvement was achieved. 

Kantara was a huge depot and swarmed with troops 
proceeding to and from the line. Whilst wandering around, 
I chanced upon an old Guildford friend named May, who had 
been a Special Constable with me in the early part of the 
war . 

Curious to relate, although throughout the war I only 
encountered two Guildfordian friends, one was this fellow 
and the other his brother whom I met when leaving a 
theatre in Bombay. We were naturally delighted to see one 
another and had several chats over old times. 

He was serving as a noncommissioned officer in the Army 
Service Corps . 

Whilst in hospital, I was nicknamed "Baldy", through my 
head having been shaved. We had quite good times and 
played games; I became quite expert at Ping-pong and 
other "strenuous" games and indulged in further 
dissipation by having my breakfast brought to me in bed. 


In the afternoons I generally hied myself to the Y.H.C.A 
which possessed a lounge and I passed the time in piano 
playing, reading, etc; by this time I was thoroughly 
enjoying the war. 

After a few days, it was decided that I must go down 
to a base hospital and so once again I entrained and 
finally found myself back in Ras-el-tin Hospital in 
Alexandria and occupied the same ward as I did on the 
occasion of my crash. 

As I had been on the move for some time, my letters from 
home had followed me around and accummulated and one day I 
received twenty-three. 

I remained at this hospital for some time and a 
certain amount of progress took place, although in my 
own opinion I was not sure that the treatment given 
was correct. Sufficient to say, I became bored with 
the existance which was only lightened by a visit of 
inspection by H.R.H. The Duke of Connaught, who walked 
in the gardens and chatted with us . 

As an improvement had taken place with regard 

to my head trouble, I prevailed upon the Doctor to 

supply me with a pot of ointment and to permit me to 

return to Aboukir for instructions to rejoin 

my squadron in Palestine. As soon as I had returned and 

reported to the Depot Medical Officer, he examined me and 

insisted that as a cure had not been effected, that I 

must return to Alexandria to another hospital where he 

would arrange for me to come under the care of a 

specialist . 

I was becoming heartily sick of being experimented upon 
but had no option other than to again pack and be 
conveyed by ambulance car to this new hospital; 
fortunately I soon recovered under expert treatment. This 
hospital was known as No. 19 General Hospital. 

I again returned to Abopakir, where I awaited Headquarter ' s 
permission to resume flying, which was to be of a graduated 
kind by reason of my lack of practice whilst in hospital for 
the past weeks . I duly received orders from the Squadron 
Commander to resume flying in R.E.8 machines and informed 
that I would shortly be required to act in the capacity of 
Instructor in the Air with these machines. 


I was definite in my expressions of unwillingness to act in 
that capacity and told him that I would much prefer to 
return to my Squadron in Palestine. 

It was most enjoyable to be once again in the air, after 
the long rest. Since I had left the depot a great deal 
of fear regarding the flying of R.E.8. machines had been 
occasioned amongst pupils, I was given to understand, by 
reason of the fact that one or two fellows had been 
killed whilst attempting solo flights and, in 
consequence, a general feeling of nervousness had arisen 
and lack of confidence, which resulted in accidents, 
mostly of a minor character and caused by faulty 
landings which resulted in undercarriages being 
telescoped . 

At times all the machines were crashed and flying could 
not be resumed until repairs had been carried out and 
those pupils responsible for the damages were ordered 
to assist the mechanics in their restoration work as a 
punishment . 

As the days went on I witnessed the results of several 
fatal accidents. 

Having once again become infused with confidence in the 
air, I enjoyed daily joy rides, taking with me each time a 
passenger, until finally I received orders to report to the 
Flight Commander of a Flight stationed at Aboukir and known 
as "The Submarine Flight" newly formed. 

Recently two large boats, (one of which was the "Aregon" 
on which I had voyaged from South Africa to India) , had 
been torpedoed a few miles out from Alexandria and as an 
important personage in the Flying Corps (or Royal Air 
Force as now known) had been submerged in the sea for 
over an hour before being rescued, he had immediately 
caused the flight to come into being as soon as he had 

I reported to the flight Commander, Captain Laing, M.C., 
and was introduced to other pilots - Lieutenants Vincer, 
Woods, Harper, Thompson and Blackmore; I shared a tent 
with the latter officer and we became fast friends and 
stayed together until the Armistice. 


I learned that our duties were to fly to the harbour in 
Alexandria and, in conjunction with the Navy, escort 
incoming and outgoing convoys of ships at times stated 
over the phone in code. 

The duration of these flights lasted something over three 
hours each and we were rarely required to do more than one 
per day. (On one occasion to escort two convoys, I was up 
for three and a half hours, returned to the aerodrome, 
took another machine and completed a further length of 
time of similar duration) . 

I became convinced that that under existing conditions 
the War was quite passable and felt that my present 
occupation would suit me admirably until the cessation 
of hostilities! All the members of the flight were 
splendid fellows and we were a happy party. 

Our patrol work was carried out on land machines and we 
wore lifesaving coats to keep us afloat in the event of 
the machines being forced to come down in the sea 
through engine trouble. To each machine, before flight, 
was fitted a 112 pound bomb, which could be dropped 
either to explode upon impact or act as a depth charge 
by having a delay action of a few seconds to allow it to 
sink before exploding. 

The routine was as follows. A telephone call from a 
branch of the Navy would state AZOBSmilell . 30 - meaning 
that an outgoing convoy was to be met at a buoy 
situated five miles out to sea from Alexandria, and 
escorted through a certain channel which had previously 
been swept by minesweepers to ensure that no mines had 
been laid by an enemy submarine, for a 
distance of about thirty miles out to sea. Two pilots 
would then be detailed to take up their machines in time 
to fly to Alexandria Harbour (some miles away) and so be 
at the rendezvous at the correct time. 

As soon as the machines were in the air, aerials were 
unwound from the revolving drums, and allowed to trail 
behind, being kept, down by lead weights. Messages - 
"Are you receiving my signals" (sent with the usual code 
prefixes etc.) having been answered by the depot 
wireless station with the ground letter "K" (meaning 
"Yes")", the machines left to perform their work. 


Flying along the coastline, they duly appeared 
over the harbour and once again the coded question "Are 
you receiving my signals?" was wirelessed down to a naval 
motor boat, whose duty it was to escort in rear of the 
convoy for as long as the machines were present, to 
receive the wireless reports. The required answer - "K" - 
having been displayed on the motor boat deck, the convoy 
set off to sea whilst the two aeroplanes flew up and down, 
one on each side, and the pilots kept a keen look out for 
any sign of enemy submarines. The machines did not carry 
observers and in each of the passenger seats an additional 
petrol tank had been installed to permit them to remain in 
the air for something over three hours at a stretch. 

When this convoy had proceeded for some thirty miles 
seaward, one of the machines signalled to the other 
that it was time to return to the aerodrome by 
firing coloured Verey lights from a pistol. Each 
pilot then wirelessed "C.I,"' (which meant "going 
home") to the naval motor boat. 

During these escort duties, pilots subconciously listened 
for any sign of irregularity in the running of their 
engines and periodically consulted their instruments for 
any sign of a miss in the engine which would be 
registered by a swing of the pointer. On the other hand, 
when the engine ran consistently; 

any sign of trouble would cause the pilot to wireless at 
once "C.I." and turn for the aerodrome. 

These flights, being carried out at the low height of 
about five hundred feet and for a distance of some thirty 
miles out to sea, necessitated careful attention to the 
engine, for the machines were not constructed in order to 
land, on water but were primarily for use on land. 
Precaution against coming down in the sea had to be 
exercised . 

Prior to my joining the flight, a machine had to land in 
the sea and the pilot was drowned. Before landing on the 
aerodrome, after duty, the long aerial had to be rolled 
back on to its drum by hand. This operation took some 
little time and, on occasion, a pilot would forget and all 
spectators standing on the fringe of the aerodrome would 
duck their heads to avoid the lead weight at the end. 


Naturally the aerial was torn away when landing and a new 
one had to be installed. Caution had to be exercised in 
letting out the aerial when flying, to prevent the drum 
from rotating too quickly, otherwise the jolt at the end 
would tear it off and the pilot would be compelled to land 
to have a further one fitted. 

Many of the flights were timed to take place at 11.30 
a.m. and lasted until about 2.30 p.m.; I had a locker 
fitted to my machine in which I stored sandwiches and 
drinks in order to appease the inner man on those 
occasions . 

We had our own little aerodrome and were quartered 
comfortably two to a large tent on its fringe; the 
machines were housed in a large hangar. 

I hired a piano in Alexandria and had it placed in my 
tent; we enjoyed many sing songs and musical evenings. We 
also possessed a good gramaphone with plenty of records. 

I now sat at the Staff table in the mess and enjoyed the 
use of the private lounge and hard tennis courts; daily 
we played tennis and life was ideal, except for the fact 
that pupils training with the various squadrons 
periodically crashed on our aerodrome or nearly landed on 
our tents. 

We were accepted as honorary members of the Sultan 
Hussein Club, Mohammid Ali Club and Union Club in 
Alexandria; the former two were most exclusive and I 
spent many enjoyable times watching the members, who were 
most cosmopolitan and comprised Frenchmen, Italians, 
Greeks, Egyptians, etc, gambling with cards for huge 
stakes. When in Alexandria, I usually took meals atone or 
other of these Clubs. 

Periodical turns of duty as Flight Orderly Officer had 
to be undertaken and on these occasions the officer on 
duty was instructed to sleep in his clothes at night in 
the Orderly Room (a converted large aeroplane case) to 
be in readiness to take the air if informed by 
telephone of the appearance of a Zeppelin. A visit by 
an enemy airship was deemed possible however, we were 
never troubled by such visitors. 


Some nights we were ordered to fly over the town of 
Alexandria for the purpose of reporting any over 
exposure of naked lights, which might act as a guide in 
the event of hostile aircraft paying a visit. 

During a day escort, I experienced a bad attack of sickness 
and after carrying on valiantly for two hours, was forced to 
wireless down that I was returning to the aerodrome. I was a 
considerable number of miles out at sea at the time and 
conditions in the air were very bumpy and only those who 
have experienced bad seasickness would appreciate my 
feelings of complete disinterestedness in life, with an only 
desire to be relieved of all responsibility at any cost. 

I simply flew for home with my head over the side, caring 
little what the machine did and, in consequence, it 
performed several minor evolutions on its own when freed 
from my restraining guidance, with the result that I had to 
muster sufficient interest and intelligence to correct it. 
The journey was a nightmare, likewise the glide into the 
aerodrome, but I managed to make a presentable landing, more 
by luck than judgement. 

I just had sufficient strength to crawl to my tent, throw 
myself on my bed and lie there whilst the universe returned 
to a steady condition and the haze removed itself from my 
eyes . 

I must have been out of condition and did not fly 
again for a couple of days until I had by then 
fully recovered. 

I now became acquainted with several families in 
Alexandria and so was never at a loose end for 
somewhere to go in my spare time. Some of these 
people met us in the afternoons, at the Sporting 
Club, and we played many games of tennis on the hard 
courts . 

The depot possessed a Concert Party called the "Canopies" 
and I fulfilled the part of pianist. Several evenings 
during the week we visited, by motor tender, the various 
large camps in and around Alexandria and gave shows . On 
certain occasions we performed at the Alhambra Theatre to 
packed houses, the audience comprising civilians and 
military. The latter included members of the Higher. 


We possessed two kinds of costume dress, that of the 
pierrot and the other, a white mess kit with the short c 
away coat. 

I derived great pleasure from this new hobby, which took 
up quite a lot of time in the learning of new items, 
rehersing, actual performances, etc. 

One day, whilst on patrol work, my engine suddenly 
stopped without any preliminary warning. I hurriedly 
glanced around for a possible place to alight and as I 
was not far from land, decided to try and get down 
without receiving a ducking. I glided towards the coast 
and just managed to have sufficient height to enable me 
to do a flat landing in a salt lake adjoining the beach 
at a place called Mex near Alexandria. 

As soon as the machine alighted, it sank in over the 
wheel axles in salt. I had landed close to a camp of a 
British West Indian Regiment and the Colonel invited me 
to dinner whilst a number of his men were detailed to 
salvage the machine from the salt lake and convey it to 
the hard ground of the camp. I turned the machine into 
the wind and roped it down, phoned to my Flight 
Commander to send a motor tender with the Flight 
Sergeant to effect the necessary repairs, and adjourned 
to the mess to be supplied with many drinks by the 
officers who had been interested in my forced landing. 

We spent a most convivial evening together and I 
borrowed a cardigan and a scarf from the Colonel; 
during my flight I had only worn a shirt, shorts, 
stockings, white canvas shoes and; the usual life 
saving coat, together with a leather flying helmet and 
goggles . 

The magneto trouble was soon remedied and the 
machine flown back to the aerodrome early next 
morning . 

On several occasions, during escort duty, the machines 
instrument indicated that the engine showed signs of 
unreliability and hurried efforts were at once made to 
get back to the aerodrome before serious trouble develop 


For the next few months I was engaged upon this work 
and spent my spare time in either playing at the depot 
cinema, taking part in concert party work, or amusing 
myself in Alexandria. 

Occasionally I took up a pupil for instruction in the 
air . 

Whilst at Aboukir, I met a fellow whose home was 
in Winchester but he had been in business at Guildford 
for some years. His name was Alexander and he was an 
extremely nice fellow who had, before the War, been a 
member of a Guildford Football Club in which I figured 
and we had played together on many occasions. He had come 
to the depot, as a cadet, to train to be a pilot. 

We were delighted to meet again and enjoyed several 
pleasant evenings together; at the end of the day he 
would wander across to my tent for a chat and a smoke. He 
was a very steady chap and, in conversation, impressed 
upon me the fact that he intended to take no more 
liberties in the air than would be necessitated by his 
training, for he realised that many accidents had 
occurred through the carelessness or over-confidence of 
pilots . 

In view of this, it will be realised that I suffered a 
considerable shock, on returning to the aerodrome at a late 
hour one evening, when I learnt that a fatal accident had 
occurred and that my friend had been one of the victims. 

It transpired that whilst he had been engaged in the practice 
of formation flying with other machines, that another pupil 
(who was flying a single seater scout machine) had 
manoeuvred around the formation and, in a spirit of 
mischief, dived upon the tail of that of my friend with the 
intention of getting as near an possible; he had misjudged 
the distance and collided in mid air. 

The two machines had become interlocked and had crashed into 
the sea from a height of several thousand feet. The body of 
the pilot of the scout machine was found but that of my 
friend was missing for several days before being washed 
ashore. Notwithstanding his intended caref ullness, his death 
had been caused by the foolishness of another. 


My chum Blackmore duly celebrated a birthday, and, 
after installing a quantity of drinks in the tent, 
invited several friends to spend the evening. The 
piano was kept going and songs and choruses sung until 
dawn . 

When at last the party broke up, I came in for an 
unusual experience which rather annoyed me. Most the 
time the fellows wined rather freely and one of the 
members of the Flight had taken exception to a 
personal remark made to him by the Flight Commander. 

This pilot had also partaken of drink rather in excess 
of that warranted by his capacity and, in consequence, 
when I got him on to his bed in the tent, the trouble 
commenced. He commented freely and in strong language 
his opinion of the Flight Commander and, as a remedy, 
desired his immediate extinction. Fumbling amongst his 
kit, he produced a service revolver which he loaded 
with ammunition, got to his feet and staggered towards 
the tent entrance. 

I called to another officer and together we threw 
ourselves upon him and, after a struggle, wrestled the 
revolver away; this manoeuvre caused the unkindly 
gentleman to consign us to perdition. For some time I 
had to watch over the offender whilst he, finding his 
means of opportunity for bringing about the demise of 
the Flight Commander frustrated, conceived the notion 
that mankind was definitely plotting against him and 
decided that his own appearance on earth was 
superflorous so that his sudden decease was essential. 

With this decision firmly fixed in his mind, at 
intervals he rose from his bed and dashed out of the 
tent and across the aerodrome, with the intention of 
throwing himself into the sea to commit suicide. 

On, each occasion I tore after him and, after a 
struggle, managed to get him back to his tent. After a 
few chases I began to tire of the business and am 
afraid that I rather debated in mind whether I would 
let him throw himself into he sea and risk the chance 
of the ducking to set him right; in any case, I would 
be able to get to bed for a much desired sleep. 


However I kept guard over him until he ultimately went 
to sleep amid the Flight Commander never knew of his 
narrow escape. 

This same officer was due to fly his machine on escort 
work in the morning and accompany, the Flight Commander 
(Who was to fly another machine) but when he awoke, the 
effects of the night had not worn off and he muttered 
threats of ramming the Flight Commander's machine so that 
they both crashed to earth; we managed to keep him out of 
the way and another pilot deputised for him. 

When, at a later date, I informed the offender 
of the occurrence, he professed entire ignorance of 
the matter and that he had not the slightest 
recollection but added that he was not surprised; 
insanity was in his family and his Mother had been 
consigned to an asylum. 

One evening I returned to the depot at about midnight 
and, on entering my tent, found several visitors 
drinking and talking in an atmosphere reeking of tobacco 
smoke. After the usual greetings I disrobed and got into 
bed and soon after getting to sleep, I was roughly 
roused and requested to take office at the piano. I am 
afraid that I was rather irritable in my replies and 
settled down to resume my broken sleep; the fun then 
started . 

Up to this time proceedings had been quietly conducted 
but things, began to warm up, for several of the guests 
contracted a playful desire to give vent to their 
general elation by hurling empty bottles through the 
air. I kept low in bed and hoped for the best while, at 
intervals, a bottle would sail over my head, pass, 
through the tent opening and crash to pieces against the 
side of the orderly room hut. 

This little pleasantry proceeded for some while and 
until the ammunition had become exhausted; during the 
lull, I ventured to raise my head but quickly lowered it 
again when I saw a fellow raise a hurrican lamp above 
his head and, after whirling it aloft, released it and 
allowed it to sail gracefully over my head, pass through 
the tent opening, and shatter itself outside. 


Peace reigned once more and I continued my sleep whilst 
those of the rest who possessed motor cycles, amused 
themselves by racing about the aerodrome. 

Early the next morning a curious spectacle presented 
itself, for the guests of the night before were 
deposited about the aerodrome in sleep and one 
slumberer had even lodged himself in sagging top of a 
square tent. 

The days followed each other and brought with them the 
usual routine work, with periodical relaxation, until we 
were warned that the whole Flight was to be transferred to 
Port Said and, in due course, the hangars and tents were 
struck and, with the rest of the stores, packed and loaded 
in readiness to be transported by rail. 

At an early hour we flew in formation from Aboukir to Port 
Said, each machine carrying a mechanic as a passenger, and 
followed the coastline the whole way. We reached our 
destination in something under two hours and, shutting off 
our engines, glided down to our new aerodrome. Here I 
experienced my second crash, fortunately of a minor 
character. When nearing the ground I noticed that an 
electric cable, supported by high poles, suddenly appear in 
my line of descent. 

I pulled up the nose of the machine in an effort to rise 
over it but in so doing, lost flying speed and the machine 
sank like a lift and pancaked on the aerodrome. The 
undercarriage was telescoped, a wing, damaged, and the 
propellor shattered; luckily my passenger, occupying the 
front seat, suffered no injury. The machine was repaired in 
a day . 

Adjourning to the mess, I met the officers of 

the Kite Balloon Section, with whom we were from now 

onwards to co-operate. We were attached to No. 209 

Squadron, which comprised seaplanes and captive 

balloons. The aerodrome, which was situated on the opposite 

side of the canal to Port Said, was small and lay by the 

side of the sea; not far distant the seaplanes were 

stationed. Pending the arrival of our tents from Aboukir, 

we stayed for a few days at The Marina Palace Hotel which 

overlooked the canal . 


The first day of arrival, after a general look round, I 
decided to visit a large Armenian Refugee Camp situated 
about two miles away and set off, with another officer, 
for this purpose. When about half way to our destination, 
we chanced to look back towards the aerodrome and were 
curious to witness two of our machines taking to the air 
but, concluded that the pilots were simply carrying out 
testing work. 

Returning to the aerodrome in the evening, we were 
informed that an outgoing convoy had been attacked by an 
enemy submarine; three of the ships had been sunk whilst 
the remainder had turned and scurried back to port and 
safety . 

This attack had been carried out insight of land and the 
ships had been sunk in shallow water; their funnels 
and masts could be seen above water. The machines had 
been ordered into the air to search for the submarine but 
no sign of the enemy was evidenced. 

As our bombs had not arrived from the previous base, the 
only action that could have been taken would have been to 
wireless back to Navy House information to assist 
the naval ships. 

In due course our stores and tents arrived 
and we settled-down to resume our escort work; this was 
carried out in conjunction with the seaplanes and balloons. 
Two seaplanes escorted a convoy for an hour or two and 
until relieved by two of the land machines; a captive 
balloon, anchored to a trawler, also accompanied the 
convoys and Japanese destroyer were at times in attendance 

To visit Part Said, we had to charter a native 
boatman to row us across the canal. Situated close 
to the aerodrome was a large building belongingto 
the Suez Canal Authorities, which 

had been converted into a hospital and was staffed 

by Australian nurses; dances were sometimes held there. 

We were very disappointed in Port Said which was dirty 
and uninteresting after Alexandria. It certainly 
boasted two or three fine hotels which included the 
Eastern Exchange, Casino Palace, Marina Palace, etc. 
and one or other of these supplied us with relaxation 


in the form of a game of billiards or a dinner and 
dance . 

As time progressed, I became acquainted with several of 
the civilian residents and spent some pleasant musical 
evenings in convivial company. 

A certain amount of excitement prevailed when huge 
cases arrived which contained new and up-to-date 
machines to be assembled and flown by the Flight. These 
were D.H.9 machines (de Haviland) . 

I applied for a weeks leave which I decided to spent in 
Alexandria. Luckily the previous evening to the day my 
leave was to commence. A Bristol fighter had been flown 
over from Aboukir and as it was to return the next 
morning, I packed my kit and accompanied the pilot. He 
was glad to have the company of a passenger. The flight 
took little over an hour and was far more pleasant 
travelling than would have been the case had I 
undertaken the several hours railway journey. 

Sitting muffled in my British warm and flying at a 
height of about five thousand feet, I felt so cold 
that my teeth chattered and I began to wish that I 
had garbed myself in leather flying wings. 

We appeared over the aerodrome at Aboukir and, 
without warning, the pilot commenced a few stunts, 
finally putting the machine into a spinning 
nosedive. I experienced considerable difficulty in 
retaining my seat in the machine, for I was not 
strapped in by the use of a safety belt. I felt 
myself sliding up the side of the fuselage and 
wondered when I would be hurled out. 

I grasped the sides with both hands and held on 
tightly. The thought passed through my mind that if 
a bad loop followed, I would stand an excellent 
chance of falling out. As soon as the pilot had 
straightened the machine after the spin, I slapped 
him on the back and yelled to him not to loop, at 
the same time pointing to my waist to indicate that 
I was not wearing the safety belt. He nodded in 
answer and we glided down and landed. 


I proceeded by train to Alexandria and, after booking 
my room at the Majestic Hotel, settled down to enjoy a 
good leave by visiting my civilian friends and 
attending various, entertainments. Two amusing 
incidents occurred during the week. 

The usual iniquitous system of tipping existed 

and a departing guest from a hotel always found a long 

line of expectant servants to see him off. 

I overhead a discussion on this subject taking place by 
some officers staying at the hotel and a Major laid a 
wager that he would leave the hotel the following 
morning without once tipping; he won his bet in the 
following manner. After his kit had been packed, he 
rang for the "boots" to convey it to a waiting taxi, at 
the same time requesting that the servants be sent to 
his room. They entered, full of expectation, and the 
Major left the room on some pretext and, closing the 
door, locked them in. 

Taking the hey with him, he proceeded to the waiting 
taxi and, after seating himself, instructed the 
"boots", to fetch a case which he stated he had left on 
his dressing table, and handed him the key of the room 
wherein the servants were locked. As soon as the 
"boots" had departed upon his errand, the Major drove 
away . 

Returning to my room one evening, I was surprised 

to see a number of empty bottles and used glasses lying 

around; I rang for a servant and had them removed. 

This happened on two occasions and then I called for my 
bill on leaving, I was astounded to notice the rather 
large amount charged for drinks and, as I had partaken 
of no meals at the hotel, other than breakfast, I 
concluded that a mistake had arisen. After an 
altercation with the head waiter, I called for the 
Manager and demanded an explanation. 

I was promptly informed that my brother, a Captain, had 
called on two occasions, with friends, and had told the 
Manager that I was quite, aware of the situation and 
that drinks were to be provided in my room and charged 
to my account. I had difficulty in impressing upon the 


Manager the fact that I had no brother and duly left 
after flatly declining to pay the extra amount. 

At a later date, I ran into a friend named Hunter (with 
whom I had shared a hut at Aboukir at an earlier date) 
and he, with a smile, asked how I had enjoyed my stay at 
the Majestic Hotel. I challenged him regarding the 
drinks and he confessed, with glee, that he had entered 
the hotel with some other fellows, looked down the list 
of residents in the book, and posed as my brother; the 
result had been apparently entirely satisfactory in his 
opinion . 

At the termination of my leave, I returned to Port 
Said and resumed duty. 

I was detailed, with my friend Blackmore, to take 
charge of a firing party and had to supervise a 
military funeral and the burial of two deceased 
patients from the Australian Hospital. 

On one occasion, a party of Australian soldiers 
desired to be rowed across the canal but the native 
boatman, usually suspicious of Australians, at first 
refused to bring his boat to the side. He later 
decided to do so but by this time the soldiers were 
angry at the hesitation showed and immediately they 
were able to set their hands upon the boatman, they 
threw him into the canal, rowed the boat across and 
made their victim swim behind. 

I was amused, one day, by the expression on the face 
of a native driver when he returned to his conveyance 
and found that, during his absence, some Australians 
had taken out the horse and reharnessed it in the 
reversed position, with its tail between the front of 
the shafts. 

Once or twice, whilst engaged upon convoy work, the 
engine of my machine showed signs of giving out but 
each time I managed to get back to the aerodrome 
safely. On one occasion, when in the air and it was 
raining hard, I saw below me and to the left, a storm 
in progress. As I gained height I passed through the 
clouds into glorious sunshine and could see vivid 
lightning playing in the clouds below. 


To the left, a huge water spout appeared to extent 
from the sea to the clouds. 

Various rumours had reached our ears concerniag the 
cessation of hostilities and at five minutes to 
eleven in the morning of ths 11th November 1918, no 
confirmation had come through and I was sitting in my 
machine, with bomb attached and the engine ticking over, 
in readiness to take to the air on convoy work at 11 a.m. 
Just as I was about to leave the ground, a messenger 
hurried across the aerodrome and informed me that 
instructions had been received by telephone from the 
Squadron Commander that the Armistice was to commence at 
11 a.m. and that all flying was cancelled. 

At that moment all the ships in the port proclaimed the 
glad tidings by blowing their hooters and everybody 
dashed around cheering and shaking hands . 

My machine was wheeled back to its hangar and, with 
two or three other officers, I took the Fight tender and 
drove it up and down the road whilst the other officers 
fired coloured Verey lights from pistols. We then 
chartered a boat and were rowed across the canal to Port 
Said, where we mingled with the excited inhabitants. In 
the evening troops paraded the streets singing popular 
songs, laughing and joking. 

From now onwards, very few duties were performed but we 
occasionally flew to neighbouring aerodromes and visited 
friends for a drink and chat . 

The names of those who had served in the East for more 
than twelve months had to be submitted for transfer to 
home establishment and we patiently awaited orders to 
embark . 

I was ordered to sit at a court of enquiry with two other 
officers, to investigate the crashing of a seaplane into a 
breakwater. Each morning a motor launch picked me up and 
conveyed me to headquarters where the enquiry took place. 
This went on for several days and we had to examine the 
statements of witnesses and finally submit our findings. 


The days passed and on Christmas Eve I celebrated by 
visiting some French friends where I spent a jolly time 
and returned to camp at about 3 a.m. On Christmas morning, 
the officers of the Balloon Section and my Flight 
challenged an equal number of noncommissioned officers and 
men to a fancy dress football match. I made myself up to 
resemble an Arab and my friend Blackmore was dressed as an 
Arab girl. 

At a previous date, a golf course had been laid out around 
the aerodrome and during the afternoon we played several 
rounds. At 6 p.m. came the event of the day - the Christmas 
dinner; a splendid spread with plenty of champagne was 
provided and many toasts were drunk, the most popular one 
being "to those at home" . 

Adjourning to the ante-room, we had a sing-song and a mock 
band, consisting of various improvised instruments and 
conducted by an individual with a burnt cork moustache and 
wearing a military cap caused much amusement. 

Boxing day morning I went to Port Said to do some shopping 
and, in the afternoon, sports for the men were held on the 
aerodrome. Many civilian friends were invited and given tea 
In the evening a concert was held in the mens large hut, 
where a well lit stage had been erected and painted scenery 
and a drop curtain provided. As usual, I was called upon to 
officiate at the piano. So terminated the festive occasion. 

I still awaited orders to entrain for Alexandria to embark 
for home and on one occasion actually took my seat in the 
train but was recalled to camp by a messenger who informed 
me that a mistake had been made. 

January 1919 

On New Years Eve I was invited to the house of some friends 
and assisted in singing out the Old Year, returning to camp 
at about 4 a.m. 

I did very little flying and only went up occasionally to 
keep in my hand. The formation of a Concert Party was 
discussed and I was approached to carry the idea into 
operation . 

Now and then our civilian friends from Port Said visited us 
and took tea in our tent. 


On these occasions a general tidying up took place, so much 
so that for some time afterwards we could not find our 
things and it seemed much handier to have our possessions 
scattered about the tent. 

In due course I received orders to report to the Squadron 
office and embarked at Port Said on s.s. "Kaiser-I-Hind" (P 
& 0 line) for home. The ship carried a large number of 
nurses and, in consequence, all cabin accomodation was taken 
and the officers had to sleep on their camp beds between 
decks. We reached Marseilles and were placed in an 
encampment of huts for a week. 

When we landed in France the ground was covered in snow and, 
in the mornings, ice had to be broken in order to get water 
for washing purposes. I nearly shivvered myself to pieces 
after spending three years in the East . 

During the stay in this town, I amused myself by exploring 
and attending theatre shows. 

We continued our journey across France by hospital train and 
had comfortable bunks in which to sleep but the weather was 
very cold. We reached Cherbourg and embarked on a cross- 
channel steamer, arriving at Southampton on the 1st 
February . 

Here I telegraphed to my parents and proceeded by fast train 
to London and from there, by another to Guildford. I 
thoroughly enjoyed the journey and feasted my eyes upon old 
familiar sights, anticipating with enjoyment my return home 
after the years spent abroad. As I walked up the road in my 
home town my feelings became more indescribable andd it 
would be impossible to portray my condition of mind at the 
reunion with my parents. 

We sat until late talking and, after a wonderful nights 
rest, I rose with the realisation that the war was over and 
that soon I would be my own master. I breakfasted and 
proceeded to London, where I reported at The Air Ministry, 
and was allowed two weeks leave. 

This period passed very quickly in visiting my many friends 
and enjoying myself and I wrote for an extension which was, 
however, refused. 


I again reported at The Air Ministry and was informed 
that I had been posted to a squadron in England. I 
again applied for an extension of leave, which was once 
more refused, and in consequence of this, I stated my 
desire to become demobilised which; after some discussion, 
was granted. 

I proceeded to another room and received my papers of 
discharge and was permitted to wear my uniform for one 
more month and to receive pay during that period. 

So my experiences in the war ended. I enlisted on 
ythe 12th September 1914 and finally discarded my 
uniform on the 9th March 1919.